The Mare

The Mare

Book - 2015 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Following her National Book Award-nominated Veronica, here is Mary Gaitskill's most poignant and powerful work yet--the story of a Dominican girl, the Anglo woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her.
Velveteen Vargas is eleven years old, a Fresh Air Fund kid from Brooklyn. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist and shakily recovered alcoholic, and her academic husband, Paul, who wonder what it will mean to "make a difference" in such a contrived situation. Gaitskill illuminates their shifting relationship with Velvet over several years, as well as Velvet's  encounter with the horses at the stable down the road--especially with an abused, unruly mare called Fugly Girl. With strong supporting characters--Velvet's abusive mother, an eccentric horse trainer, a charismatic older boy who awakens Velvet's nascent passion-- The Mare traces Velvet's journey between the vital, violent world of the inner city and the world of the small-town stable.
In Gaitskill's hands, the timeless story of a girl and a horse is joined with a timely story of people from different races and classes trying to meet one another honestly. The Mare is raw, heart-stirring, and original.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, 2015.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780307379740
Branch Call Number: FIC Gaits
Characteristics: 441 pages ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

the lay-out of this novel is relatively unique: every couple of pages, a different character gets his/her say for a couple of pages, or several. Imagine if Tolstoy had written WAR AND PEACE this way! But, no, Tolstoy seems addicted to the omniscient point of view. I am not, mind you, hinting that ms. gaitskill is of the stature of the great Russian author. She is innovative, however, as I have already mentioned. some characters, for instance, 'ginger,' only have a paragraph to add, each time. but these, seem to get more opportunities to share. I don't know. . . I hope I am not being unkind when I say, I think she should stick to writing short stories. See what you think.

Nov 13, 2018

Very well written and thought provoking. Difficult to read because of cruelty. Had to force myself to pick it back up each time. Learning afterwards that much of it was autobiographical really added to my appreciation of both the writing and the story.

May 20, 2017

What a good story! The characters are flawed, but this makes them real, 360 degree human beings, even the ones that have less center stage presence. Mary Caitskill is a master at conveying emotion - she's both lyrical and piercingly true. This is the second book I've read this spring (the other was Lincoln in the Bardo) that uses the POV of the characters to drive the narrative. This makes for an engaging, fast-moving read. But, where this method of storytelling in Lincoln in the Bardo took me awhile to get in synch with the storyline, The Mare pulled me in immediately.
While it seems the narrative, highlighted by the cover art, might slot this for Young Adult, the story is clearly nuanced, and deals with life themes that are brutal and honest.

wendybird Aug 30, 2016

First of all, full disclosure: I'm a horsewoman and so the cover art and title drew me in. But the dust jacket synopsis made me start Chapter One. I've always wondered what actually happened to those NYC "Fresh Air Fund " kids -- the ones who live difficult lives in the inner city, and then, once a year, are sprung into the surrounding countryside, to live with a family with the means to "help" during summer vacation. This novel takes a good hard look at exactly that situation, and while some of it is tough to read (in an emotional sense), I would think it is an even tougher experience on both sides, for both families, to manage well. The horse in the title is the creature that creates the central plot activity, but it is the challenges faced by all the characters that brings the book to life. It has a "you never really understand until you walk a mile in their shoes" quality. While the ending is a teeny bit facile, it's a small quibble, and I will be looking for more by Mary Gaitskill.

Jul 13, 2016

This started off gangbusters but by about page 300 (of 441) the repetition got to me and I just couldn't hang in there. Snuck to the last few pages & called it a day.

Jan 28, 2016

I totally agree with previous reviews. Especially the last one. Worth the read!

Jan 19, 2016

A deeply moving story of a young teen who rises above many disadvantages to improve her life. Raw, honest, troubling, and very well written.

Dec 04, 2015

A long, depressing story - but I liked it. A cast of characters that are very flawed and unlikeable - but I liked it. Written in short, choppy chapters - but I liked it. Everyone in this book is a mess, including the horse - but I liked it. A coming of age story with multiple love-hate relationships which are counteracted by the loving bond between Velvet and the mare. An engrossing story that pulled me in.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at VPL

To Top