by Sara Gruen

April 2004
ISBN: 0-0-058027-5
Reviewer Graphic Button Harper Collins
Mass Market Paperback

With her debut novel, Sara Gruen takes us on an emotional ride through obsession and love. She shows the complex developement between family. Sara invokes the passion of human relationships and the dependence of animal friendships. We are taken on a wonderful ride as one woman tries to heal from the wounds life has given her.

Annemarie Zimmer had been at the top of her profession when she was eighteen. Competing around the world in horse shows, she was well on her way to the Olympics. Then a horrific accident destroyed her world. Her beloved horse, Harry, was died. She somehow managed to heal her broken body and move on to a world without horses.

Suddenly, twenty years later, Annemarie is forced to realize that the bland world she has built for herself isn't real. She heads home to her family's riding academy, her teenage daughter in tow. She has lost her job. Her marriage is ending. She's in danger of losing her daughter. Yet, the cruelest stroke is the fact that her father is dying. On her father's farm, she will face the demons of her past.

Obsession sets in when Dan, her childhood boyfriend, shows her a strangely striped horse. Annemarie's life sprials further out of control as she searches for the answers to the horse. For the horse looks like Harry, and she can't let go of that memory. In danger of losing everything and everyone important to her, Annemarie must decide to take control of herself.

Sara Gruen's writing draws you in from the beginning. We are presented with the rare love that a girl has for her horse. Annemarie's journey to come to terms with all of the grief in her life is hard to take sometimes, but Sara Gruen handles it with a deft touch. The characters are well-written and developed. Even the horses have their own personalities. The details of daily stable maintance and training are impectably researched. This reader will be waiting eagerly for Ms.Gruen's next book.

Riding Lessons is a book that takes the time honored tradition of a girl's love for horses and turns it into a journey that we can all understand. When you read this book, make sure to have some tissues handy. Tears will fall as you watch Annemarie finally come home.

Reviewed in March 2004 by Jenni.

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