HN Book Club: ‘The Horse Is Never Wrong’ by Mary Pagones

Sally Spickard takes it for a spin.

Mary Pagones addresses the tumultuous teenage years through the eyes of 15-year-old Heather, a horse crazy girl with Asperger’s.

Mary Cover

I think I can speak for many, if not most, of us when I say that being a horse crazy teenager is somewhat of an awkward experience. I didn’t have a traumatic high school experience, but I certainly was “that girl” who had horses on her notebooks and constantly had horse shows on the brain.

A fortunate side effect of those awkward years, though, is the maturity that comes from growing up in a barn. That sense of self-confidence and worth when you realize you’ve gained a work ethic and a kind heart from years of working with horses. But it’s a lesson that many of us find difficult, as we fumble through our adolescence searching for a way to fit in and feel “normal.”

Such is the case for 15-year-old Heather, the protagonist in Mary Pagone’s debut novel, The Horse is Never Wrong. Heather was diagnosed with Asperger’s, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which explained the tenacity with which she focused on her vast knowledge about U.S. presidents or her preference to deconstruct classic literary pieces such as Romeo and Juliet. Heather also struggled with social acceptance, never really fitting in or having friends, despite her mother’s best efforts to create a “popular” child, something she had lacked in her own youth.

It isn’t until Heather begins taking riding lessons at the nearby Wandering Woods Farm that Heather delves into a world where she feels she can find some peace and acceptance. As the book takes us through her journey, we see Heather grow before our eyes, subtly at first, leading us to cheer her on through every difficult conversation and new riding challenge.

“Everyone is limited by something,” Heather comments in her narrative. As we follow Heather’s journey, we realize that her mental diagnosis is not the end all, be all to her life. While she leaned on her ASD as a sort of crutch, chalking any negative experiences or feelings up to “Well, it’s because I’m screwed up”, we begin to see that her limitations may not be as constricting as she has believed all these years.

While Mary uses Heather’s ASD as the primary symbol for limitations — physical, emotional, or otherwise — the undercurrent of Heather’s experiences are true for any walk of life: no matter what limitations you may (think you) have, there are still ways to grow in the right environments. Heather’s happened to be Wandering Woods Farm.

Reading this book got me thinking about my own limitations, and how I’ve let them overshadow thoughts of confidence and success. It’s so easy to doubt and assume your failures are due to something that is “wrong” with you. Heather shows us that this is not the case. As Mary so appropriately put it, The Horse is Never Wrong — and, really, truer words may never have been spoken.

Mary already has a sequel to her first novel in the works. Her debut effort is a commendable one, and also lacks the irritating inaccuracies that are peppered throughout so many horse novels — big thumbs up there, Mary! No matter what your discipline or sport of choice, you won’t regret taking a ride with Heather in this book.

If you’re dying to get your hands on a copy of The Horse is Never Wrong, you’re in luck! Mary Pagones and her publisher, Deeds Publishing, have generously offered to give away five copies of the book — just what the doctor ordered for these cold winter nights, right? To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below. Entries will be open until Sunday at midnight EST, and we’ll be contacting the winners via email on Monday. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Go Reading, and Go Riding!

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