The New York Times Magazine features Mary Gaitskill in a lengthy profile written by Parul Sehgal, an editor at The New York Times Book Review. It is online now and set for the Nov. 8 print edition.
Perhaps, as Sehgal goes on to point out, that is because:
“at first glance [the novel] feels out of place in her oeuvre … [it] doesn’t have the usual feel of Gaitskill’s fiction, the prickly wit and enveloping sanctuary, the lure of a dark bar on a hot day. It’s earnest and violently of the daylight, stuffed with squalling schoolchildren and focused less on missing connections than surviving them.”
Sehgal says that instead the novel:
“is a more expansive, more elaborately plotted story than we’ve come to expect from Gaitskill, and it’s not a book she ever wanted to write … What, after all, does she know of motherhood or writing from the point of view of a poor child of another race — let alone horses? But Gaitskill has always written from the margins, peering in: Feelings of exclusion and confusion powerfully motor her imagination. And in The Mare, in writing about race, poverty and family life, she has traveled to some of the farthest vistas of her career.”
The novel centers on Velvet, an 11-year-old Dominican-American girl from Crown Heights Brooklyn who is sent to the countryside to spend the summer with a childless white couple. It traces the complications and connections between her family, a horse, and the couple she stays with.
Reviewing for the NYT Dwight Garner was not blown away, saying “The Mare gallops, but on a closed track, not out there in the wild.”
Reviewing for the LA Times, author Elissa Schappell completely disagreed, writing:
“This is a coming-of-age story in the way we are always coming of age, whether we are 13 or 47. What elevates it is the way Gaitskill rides herd on sentimentality, which isn’t to suggest that the work isn’t emotional — it is. It’s just that there are no false notes, no stumbles in the rare moments of tenderness. It’s brave and bold to publish a book like this. Make no mistake: The women in this book, like Gaitskill herself, are mares.”
And booksellers like it, making it an Indie Next Pick for November:
“The Mare is the heart-wrenching story of a young inner-city girl in the Fresh Air Fund program who travels to a host family in upstate New York, where she befriends a frightened and abused racehorse at a nearby stable. Gaitskill navigates the ugly realities of both human and equine abuse, but, ultimately, this is a triumphant novel shaped by authentic characters and in which trust and determination win. Readers will be reminded of how our real-life connections with animals can both guide and heal.” —Nancy Scheemaker, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY.
Gaitskill gets even more attention in Alexandra Schwartz’s profile for The New Yorker, “Uneasy Rider,” online now and in print in the Nov.9 issue.