Book Review “So the most surprising thing about Gaitskill’s new novel, The Mare, is how conventional it is. It has a conventional linear structure, a conventional coming-of-age plot. Its heroine, young Velveteen “Velvet” Vargas, helps peg the book as an explicit homage to two beloved children’s classics, National Velvet and The Velveteen Rabbit. (Readers of Margery Williams’ book may recall that it is the Skin Horse who tells the Velveteen Rabbit, “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”).” "Maternal instincts’The Slate Book Review, Elliott Holt, November 3, 2015
Mary Gaitskill was born November 11, 1954 in Lexington, Kentucky. She earned a BA at the University of Michigan. She is a novelist, essayist and short story writer, Her work has been published in O' Henry Prize Stories, The New Yorker, and Harper's Magazine. She is the author of three novels, The Mare, (2015), Veronica (2005) and Two Girls, Fat and Thin (2001). She was nominated for the National Book Award, The National Critic's Circle Award and the LA Times Book Award for Veronica in 2005.
She married the writer Peter Trachtenberg in 2001. They separated in 2010.Gaitskill lives in Rhinebeck, New York.
Author Quotes: "When I start writing a story, I don’t feel like I’m integrating anything; I feel like I’m marching through mud. But at least some of the time when there comes a moment when I feel I’m carrying all the elements I’ve just described and more in a big, clear bowl. It doesn’t feel like I’m containing them. It feels like I’m bringing them into being and letting them be, exactly as they are." Mary Gaitskill The Wolf in the Tall Grass 1998
Read BExtraordinaire Blog for more reviews on our next book club selection.
is reading "The Island" written by Victoria Hislop for February.
The Mare tells the story of want, yearning and love.Velvet, a poor eleven-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic lives in a rough neighborhood where outside her window the police shot a young boy. She lives with her mother and six-year old brother. Her father left when she was nine. In the first chapter, she wakes up from a dream about her dead grandfather. He is lost in a castle like place with white people scaring him in each room. She never met her grandfather in person but she knew he loved her through their phone conversations.
She visits the Puerto Rican Family services with her mother and six-year old brother Dante. Her hard-working single and abusive mother signed the kids up to go stay with rich white people for two weeks over the summer. Later, Velvet sits on the windowsill, and as she examines her box of treasures consisting of a seashell, a dried up seahorse and a broken doll key chain she thinks about what will happen.
Ginger, a former artist and drug addict, meets her husband at AA. He is a college professor with an ex-wife and daughter. They want a baby but unable to conceive. She calls an organization that brings poor inner-city kids to stay with country families. She convinces her husband to see what it would be like to have a child that is not there own.
They meet. Ginger and Paul think she is a sweetheart. Ginger worries she isn’t capable of caring for her. Velvet is sad she can’t reach her mother. Ginger suggesting going over to the neighbor's stables to see the horses.
They visit the stables, Velvet is amazed by it and feels confortable even with the “wild” horse. Ginger promises riding lessons not knowing that Velvet's mother is terrified Velvet will die and curses Ginger. Ginger and Velvet hide the riding lessons from her mother.
After Velvet’s first lesson. She (the horse) accepts you. Pat, the horse trainer says, “She doesn’t care who you are, how much money you have, where you’re from. She accepts you.” Velvet felt it. She smiled so hard it made tears come.
Velvet realizes. “It was like I was looking at puzzle pieces all over the floor that magically got snapped into place and I went, Oh, okay.”
The novel unfolds over the course of Velvet's turbulent adolescence from eleven to sixteen. It is told through alternating multiple perspectives of the characters: troubled adults and a troubled child. Gaitskill examines the relationships between the rich and poor, black and white, young and old, mothers and childless women and an abused wild girl and an abused wild horse.
Mary Gaitskill: Not all kink and gloom