"There's nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse."
Old English Proverb
The Outside of a Horse by Ginny Rorby held me tightly within its grips. The story line captured me: what girl doesn't love horses? And the tension between a girl and her father who has just returned from war and is completely lost: who doesn't want to show up and be present when grief gets in the way of living? Add in other tensions many families experience including divorce, money issues, and young children and I likely am caught by the book. But Rorby wrote her text in a way that found me more intrigued. She framed the issues with a gentle fierceness, especially when you consider the life of the teen through whom this book is written. Her compelling composure and commitment to her father is unfailing, and she returns again and again to who he was before the war. I loved reading through her eyes.
I keep coming across these books that link returning Iraqi War vets with the young teens waiting for their return. If you are like me, you have read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, you know war veterans, and you have seen some of the movies created in the last 20 years around surviving the wars of our world. And if you are like me, you have read some of the newer books with this theme of young person waiting for war-vet parent to return. This book, The Outside of a Horse, picks up with the return of 13- year- old Hannah's father, Jeff, from the Iraq War. Jeff's reentry to home offers repeating challenges of PTSD that vets often bring back from their horrific experiences within the wars they fought. He drinks tons, gets falling down drunk every night, and struggles mightily with having a reason to regain his own health. It is the daughter who returns again and again to his side, while also giving him space to find his way. And in time**spoiler alert** he does, with a horse to thank.
I hope you find this book as rich as I did. I would love to hear how you liked it.