“Once in a rare while you come across a novel of such transfixing beauty that it enlarges your faith in the medium itself. On Swift Horses is, for me, one of those books. As an exploration of life lived in the outer distances of plain sight, it is suffused with hazard and touched by grace, furnished with the longevity of a postwar classic and the immediacy of the present tense. It is, simply put, a masterpiece.”


On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl. Debut Novel.  This story takes place during the 1950’s, on the West Coast.  It is about deep secrets and the ultimate attempt at true freedom to live your life as you want it to be lived. Lee and Muriel are a young married couple. Lee wants to buy land in California.  Muriel goes along reluctantly. Lee has a brother named Julius who Muriel thinks is more her type.  Julius is out of the army and he is supposed to be coming to California with his brother so she is counting on this.

When Julius fails to show up is when the story really begins its journey on its true road of secrecy and diverging lifestyles.  Julius show up late and abruptly leaves again.  He is in search of the man he feels he is in love with.  Muriel keeps from Lee her love of betting on the horses. The true nature of Julius and Muriel are revealed throughout the rest of the book as she and Julius both in their own way seek the freedom they need in order to complete their lives.

The story is well thought out and written well. The fact that the story occurs in the 50’s at a time where most of the behavior of both of these characters is condemned and they would be ostracized if found out makes this book a poignant read.


Reviewed by:

Richard Franco

Added 18th March 2020

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Richard Franco