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The Horse by Willy Vlautin




About The Horse


Award-winning author Willy Vlautin explores loneliness, art, regret, and hard-won empathy in this poignant novel—his most personal to date—that captures the life of a journeyman musician unable to escape the tragedies of his past.
Al Ward lives on an isolated mining claim in the high desert of central Nevada fifty miles from the nearest town. A grizzled man in his sixties, he survives on canned soup, instant coffee, and memories of his ex-wife, friends and family he’s lost, and his life as a touring musician. Hampered by insomnia, bouts of anxiety, and a chronic lethargy that keeps him from moving back to town, Al finds himself teetering on the edge of madness and running out of reasons to go on—until a horse arrives on his doorstep: nameless, blind, and utterly helpless.
Al hopes the horse will vanish as mysteriously as he appeared. Yet the animal remains, leaving him in a conundrum. Is the animal real, or a phantom conjured from imagination? As Al contemplates the horse’s existence—and what, if anything, he can do—his thoughts are interspersed with memories, from the moment his mother’s part-time boyfriend gifts him a 1959 butterscotch blonde Telecaster, to the day his travels begin. He joins various bands—all who perform his songs once they discover his talent–playing casinos, truck stops, clubs, and bars. He falls in love, and finds pockets of companionship and minor success along the way. Never close to stardom or financial success, he continues as a journeyman for decades until alcoholism and a heartbreaking tragedy lead him to the solitude of the barren Nevada desert.
A poignant meditation on addiction, heartbreak, and the reality of life on the road in smalltime bands, The Horse is a beautiful, haunting tale from an author working at the height of his powers.




Praise For The Horse


“Willy Vlautin writes about people overlooked by society and overlooked by literature. In The Horse, he tells the story of a tenderhearted man who has a steady talent and a crushing addiction. It is both a work of extraordinary compassion and a really great novel.’
— Ann Patchett, New York Times Bestselling author of Tom Lake

I loved this novel so much, though it broke my heart again and again. No one anywhere writes with such power and such stark beauty about American desperation and want, American loneliness and heartache. We need Willy Vlautin like we needed Johnny Cash, like we needed Larry McMurtry—he’s essential and every book he writes proves it all over again.’
— Joe Hill, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Full Throttle and Strange Weather

‘There’s not another writer out there, living or dead, that I trust with my heart more than Willy Vlautin, and he breaks it every damn time. In Al Ward’s love and loss, in his decency, his pathos, and his struggle to endure, Vlautin has gifted us a paean to the power of song. The Horse is another classic from one of America’s greatest storytellers.’
— Jonathan Evison, New York Times Bestselling Author of Again and Again

“I loved The Horse like I love all Willy Vlautin joints—for its melodic prose and its unflinching heart. This terrific parable of art and aging, laced within the bittersweet story of an old casino musician, is like the literary equivalent of a classic album by Tom Waits or Townes Van Zandt.”
— Jess Walter, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Cold Millions and Beautiful Ruins

‘The novel itself feels like a classic song, a lament of a lonesome balladeer, resulting in a singular masterpiece. Vlautin has composed another classic.’
— Booklist

‘Spare, restrained, unsentimental, yet full of emotion and force.’
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)




(to come)



About Willy Vlautin

Willy Vlautin is the author of the novels The Motel Life, Northline, Lean on Pete, The Free, Don’t Skip Out on Me, and The Night Always Comes. He is the founding member of the bands Richmond Fontaine and The Delines.


Photo by Bobby Abrahamson