by Julia Merritt
GENRE: Fiction - Literary
In the 1920s, as Canada progresses through the Industrial Revolution, horses are still the rural engines of survival. As a child Adam lives this reality on his family's farm in the Ottawa Valley, planning to take over one day and have a family of his own. When his parents die during the Great Depression, nineteen-year-old Adam is disinherited in favour of his brother and is forced to move to the city to find work. Without a formal education his choices are few, yet he finds a place to use his horsemanship skills in the dwindling forces of the Canadian cavalry based near Montreal. There he finds pride in being a mounted soldier, and friendship with his fellow dragoons. But the cavalry units are mechanized by the beginning of World War Two, and when Adam is sent to Europe, he must abandon his equine partners for trucks and tanks. In the catastrophic experience of war, he will lose everything once again.
Broken in body and spirit, he returns to Canada where he must confront the question of survival in a world that doesn't seem to have a place for an injured soldier. Full of poetic reflections on what it means to work with horses, horse/man is a powerful story about a man searching for dignity and connection in the face of a rapidly shifting world.
“Trot on, Jack! Git up, Pete! Git UP! Good.”
The driver called out orders and sounded gruff, even in praise. The reins slapped the broad chestnut backs lightly, then loosened. It was the end of May, and planting had finished. Today, they were going to town. Freed from their heavy collars and the deep wet soil, the horses danced down the dirt road, shaking their heads as they pushed through the harnesses. Their efforts were rewarded with an easy silence.
Seven-year-old Adam sat in the back of the wagon, his skinny legs anchoring the sacks and baskets his mother had given him for dry goods. He was small for his age but wiry and strong. His face was still childish, heart-shaped and snub-nosed, with sandy brown hair and eyes. His father, Ciaran, was alone on the front seat, driving the horses with his back to Adam. Adam was grateful for the rest.
The horses picked up speed, and Adam bounced from side to side on the planks. The percussion of the horses’ hooves and the squeak of the wagon on its struts was all he could hear. The wind from the wagon’s movement had a chill. He turned his head to face it, letting the tears from his watering eyes stream along his cheeks. He inhaled the sharpness of spring, undercut by the heaviness of soil and vegetation that was not quite yet alive. Travelling along, further details unfurled — the patches of mud in the potholes, the freshly tilled soil in the fields, the shades of green emerging from the ditches and the trees.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Julia Merritt has been captivated by horses ever since she could see out of the car window. Then she grew up and became a public library CEO and certified animal bodyworker. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her thoroughbred horses and smooth collie dogs. This is her first novel.
Connect with Julia Merritt
Get your copy of horse/man
INDIGO CHAPTERS https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/horse-man/9780228856542-item.html
BARNES & NOBLE https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/horse-man-julia-merritt/1140954662
BOOK DEPOSITORY https://www.bookdepository.com/horseman-Julia-Merritt/9780228856566
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Hello and welcome to my blog! Can you tell me a little about yourself, and how you became an author?
When I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I asked my mum to teach me to read before I went to school, and so she read me stories every night, and bought me workbooks so that I could learn my letters and practice how to write. By age 5 I was reading chapter books, and by the time I was in Grade 4, I was writing all kinds of stories. After middle school I didn’t pursue writing anymore, and did the usual pathway of going through school and becoming self-sufficient. But only a year after I had begun to work full-time, the idea for horse/man arrived and I decided I absolutely must figure out how to tell this story. It took 11 years but I finally did it!
What is your book about?
horse/man tells the story of Adam O’Connor’s life throughout the 1900s, as the world switches from horse and human physical labour to machines. It begins as Adam is growing up on his family’s farm in the early 1900s, where he learns how to work with horses for agriculture and transportation. During the Great Depression Adam’s parents die and Adam is disinherited, and he must leave his home in order to find work. The novel follows Adam through the Second World War and beyond, as he struggles to find a place in a world that has completely changed around him.
Who is your hero/heroine? Is he/she based on someone in real life?
Adam is the hero of horse/man. He’s a bit of a lonely sort, who spends more time with horses than with people. Rather than be inspired by one specific person, he’s a collection of different character traits and experiences from people I’ve met in the horse world. Horse people do tend to have some similar personality traits, and I suspect that they will see parts of themselves in him.
What are your favorite times for writing? Morning? Evening?
For a while I tried to write in the early morning, waking up at 5am and writing for an hour before work. But it turned out that I am slow to warm up, so an hour at a time didn’t result in a large word count. I learned that it was best to block off one entire weekend day, and that way I can take my time to warm up, and take breaks, and actually get somewhere with the plot.
Who are your favorite authors? Did they influence your writing, and if so, how?
André Alexis has been a recent favourite author of mine. His poetic style of writing pulls the reader in and does a wonderful job of evoking emotion. Pastoral made a real impression on me and I’ve tried to make my own writing include some lyricism as well.
Robertson Davies is another one of my biggest influences. He wrote with depth, but saw absolutely nothing in the human condition as so sacred that he could not see the absurdity within it. That sort of wit and insightful observation is something I aspire to in my own writing.
Did you have a favorite book as a child? Did it influence your choice to become an author?
That’s a tough one! I was a bit of a magpie, and read widely without re-reading very much. My favourite genre was definitely fantasy, especially re-imagined fairy tales. Juliet Marillier, Garth Nix, and Tamora Pierce were three of my favourite fantasy authors growing up. They wrote wonderful series that young adults could really sink their teeth into. At the time I was reading them I didn’t have an idea of myself as an author, but they I so admired how they were able to build such wonderful worlds and brave characters.
Thank you for answering my questions and for sharing your book on my blog!