My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There is something all encompassing about that moment when somebody discovers that they can love; that they can truly, madly and wholly love somebody or something. It becomes the everything that they are, the everything that they do. It is the air, the earth, the word, the whisper. Everything is about their love and their love is lost in everything.
I have often thought that horse stories are, really, love stories at heart. They are stories shot through with love and loving. They are stories of girls and boys and mares and geldings learning to love and trust and believe in another and to be something greater together than they can be apart. These are stories of love these, from Ruth and Fly-by-Night through to Jinny and Shantih, Ken and Flicka, these stories tell us that there is no shame in loving something so much that you cannot quite breathe without them there. There is something quite perfect in that. And, as every perfect moment brings with it the inevitability of the fall, these stories teach us how to live with and through those moments when every breath you take feels like a knife to your throat and ice in your heart. You are not alone. You have loved once and you will love again and you will be loved, and there is something so perfect in this world and one day it will find you.
This, then, is the horse story at its best, that fine mixture of love and loss and hope and fear and feelings that have never been thought before but now that you have thought them, you know that the world is a better place. There are several authors who catch this shift in consciousness so very perfectly and Mary O’Hara is one of them.
Green Grass of Wyoming is her third book in the Flicka series. The first is the heart-song My Friend Flicka and the second, the wild cloud scudding across a bare-blue sky: Thunderhead. They are good books, both, and they have their moments of being something very great. Green Grass of Wyoming stands well in its own right, but the experience of reading the trilogy, from dawn to dusk, from ranch to range, is something worth doing.
This book, the final in the trilogy, tells of Ken and his wild white stallion Thunderhead who is roaming free on the Wyoming ranges. Thunderhead is a king of horses, and a king needs his court. He’s stealing mares and, when a beautiful racehorse – Crown Jewel – is lost mid-transit, he ends up taking her as part of his herd. Crown Jewel, though, has a human herd of her own. She was to be a gift and when she doesn’t arrive, people come looking for her. And that means, it’s time for Ken to come and find his stallion and deal with the problem that he has become. Coupled with that, is the slow realisation that he has feelings for Jewel’s young owner: Casey. Green Grass of Wyoming sees all of this come together and inevitably, painfully, beautifully, start to conclude the trilogy.
How best to describe this book then? It is like cut glass at its heart, a shining, multi-faceted thing. There are plotlines here concerning mental health, marriage, love, fear, hope, religion; it is a book that was young adult before its time but also something more than that. It’s almost a young adult saga; a sort of hybrid of those books you know that sprawl over years and see characters change and break and shift and grow. And underneath that all is Ken and Nell and Rob and Carey and their horses and animals of vivid name and character; Whodat, the wide-eyed stallion-to-be, Pilgrim, the protector dog, Flicka, the heart-whole of Ken, and so many more.
There are some books that sort of exist in an other-space without definition nor years to hold them back nor pigeonhole them, and I’d argue quite vehemently for the Flicka trilogy to exist in that space. They are horse books, but beyond all of that – ? They are books of love and life and living.