PERSONAL: Born in Canada; married; children: three.
ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 6135, Chicago, IL 60606-6135. E-mail—[email protected]
Riding Lessons (novel), HarperTorch (New York, NY), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Flying Changes, a sequel to Riding Lessons.
SIDELIGHTS: Sara Gruen's debut novel, Riding Lessons, concerns an Olympic-level rider named Annemarie Zimmer, who loses her prized horse and her promising career in a terrible accident. The incident proves to be the first link in a chain of events that culminates two decades later. At that point, Annemarie has lost her job, is in the midst of a divorce from her husband, and has discovered that her father is terminally ill. Taking her highly rebellious, teenaged daughter with her, she returns to her parents' riding school in New Hampshire to regroup. There, she encounters a former love interest, Dan Garibaldi. She also finds a neglected horse with rare, brindled coloring; it is the same coat pattern as Highland Harry, her mount who died in the accident twenty years before. The coloration is so unusual that Annemarie feels there must be a connection between the two animals, and she becomes determined to discover what it is. Eventually, she learns that the horse is Harry's brother.
"Riding Lessons is an exciting character study that uses the equestrian world as a backdrop to a family drama," mused Harriet Klausner in a review for AllReaders.com. The reviewer praised the "vivid story line" and the author's "insight into the heroine who remains the center of a powerful tale of redemption." Jill M. Smith, a contributor to RomanticTimes.com, advised that "painful estranged relationships form the core of this emotionally complex and dark novel." A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that Riding Lessons is "beautifully nuanced," and added: "The book's appealing horse scenes depicted with unsentimental affection help build a moving story of loss, survival and renewal." Finally, a Booklist writer praised Gruen's writing skill, calling Riding Lessons "so exquisitely written it's hard to believe that it's also a debut."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April, 2004, review of Riding Lessons, p. 1355.
Publishers Weekly, March 1, 2004, review of Riding Lessons, p. 55.
RomanticTimes.com, http://www.romantictimes.com/ (December 14, 2004), Jill M. Smith, review of Riding Lessons.
Sara Gruen Home page, http://www.gruenzoo.com (November 30, 2004).