Monday, October 20, 2014

G453 Book Review of Ghost Horse by Thomas H McNeely

Name of Book: Ghost Horse

Author: Thomas H McNeely

ISBN: 9781928589914

Publisher: Gival Press

Type of book: Secrets, Texas, dark, Houston, 1975-1976, Catholic upbringing, immigration, racism, prejudice, wealth, elites, class, father/son relationship, friendships

Year it was published: 2014


Winner of the 2013 Gival Press Novel Award / "An elegy for a lost father, an unforgettable fable of the power of art, Ghost Horse weaves a singular spell, captivating the reader and never letting go."--Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master's Son, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction / Set amidst the social tensions of 1970's Houston, Ghost Horse tells the story of eleven-year-old Buddy Turner's shifting alliances within his fragmented family and with two other boys--one Anglo, one Latino--in their quest to make a Super-8 animated movie. As his father's many secrets begin to unravel, Buddy discovers the real movie: the intersection between life as he sees it and the truth of his own past. In a vivid story of love, friendship, and betrayal, Ghost Horse explores a boy's swiftly changing awareness of himself and the world through the lens of imagination. / Lisa Peet, Associate Editor, News & Features, Library Journal, September 2014 "Ghost Horse by Thomas H. McNeely (Gival Pr.) [is] a coming-of-age (but only barely) story about a young boy and his fragmented family, shifting alliances, burgeoning racial awareness, and a Super-8 movie about the eponymous Ghost Horse. The writing is sensitive, beautiful, and ominous throughout—I hate when people use lazy author mashups to define a book, but I can’t resist: it’s as if Cormac McCarthy and Denis Johnson teamed up to write a 1970s Texas YA novel that went off the rails somewhere—in a very, very good way."


The main characters include Buddy, Simon and Alex along with Buddy's parents and grandparents. While the men seemed to be drawn out and three dimensional, the women weren't as drawn out, and we learn very little about them. Buddy is the main character who has been exposed to the real truth and secrets way too early and he is struggling with keeping his sanity throughout the book, and allowing the darkness to take over. He keeps everything inside of him and on the surface is very respectful of adults, calling them "sir" and "ma'am." Simon is Buddy's friend at a wealthy private school and he has his own issues in his family. He also seems to know everything that's going on with everyone else in school. Alex is a talented artist from Mexico who owns a dog named Ysrael and is best described as serious and a bit forgiving, maybe? Buddy's father tries to make up for his sins, and he seems to be the type that likes to have two cakes, (that is have both a wife and a mistress, and unable to choose who he desires,) He also has a complex relationships with his own mother. As mentioned, the women weren't drawn out well: I didn't really get why Buddy's paternal grandmother detested his mother, or what happened to cause the father to leave in the first place?


Secrets can be the straw that breaks camel's back


The story is written in third person narrative completely from Buddy's point of view. While there are talented writers that can write novels from a single perspective, this one didn't do a very good job, at least for me. Buddy is someone I disliked intensely, and I had trouble understanding or even relating to him. I think if another point of view was added in, then I would have liked the story better. I also felt angry in trying to understand what was causing him to be self-destructive? There were way too many details, and while those can be a boon, in this case they seemed distractive in trying to understand the protagonist and why he acted the way he did. Also, what I didn't understand is that the dialogue is a bit weird: there are no quotation marks when it comes to some dialogue, while other dialogue is italicized. I'm unsure why it was done like that. I did like Buddy's father's dialogue with his mother.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

Thomas McNeelyAbout Thomas McNeely

A native of Houston, Texas, Thomas H. McNeely has received fellowships from the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, the Dobie Paisano Program at the University of Texas at Austin, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well from the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center. His fiction has appeared in The AtlanticPloughsharesThe Virginia Quarterly Review, and Epoch, and has been anthologized in Algonquin Books’ Best of the South and What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. His non-fiction has appeared in Ninth Letter and The RumpusGhost Horse, winner of the 2013 Gival Press Novel Award, is his first book. He teaches in the Emerson College Honors Program and the Stanford Online Writing Studio, and lives with his wife and daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Find out more about Thomas at his website.


While I admired the writing style and how there is some sort of line between reality and insanity that the author tip-toes I have to be honest that I have trouble liking it. On goodreads site, a reviewer mentioned that it would really benefit if there were multiple points of view instead of just one, and after reading it, I'm very apt to agree. Also, several words were repeated over and over on what seemed to be on every page which caused me to feel frustrated. Due to a certain scene at the very end involving main character and a dog, especially if you're a dog owner or an animal lover, I would exercise caution while reading it. I also have trouble articulating the summary because the back summary was misleading for me: basically Buddy's father comes back into his life and Buddy's life becomes topsy-turvy as he is forced to go to a wealthier school, has to learn secrets he'd rather not know, and try to cling to sanity amidst the lies and turmoil he is put through, although little by little he is fast becoming overwhelmed by the secrets and lies.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Thomas’ Tour Stops

Monday, October 13th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, October 14th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, October 16th: Fuelled by Fiction
Monday, October 20th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, October 21st: Book Loving Hippo
Wednesday, October 22nd: Walking With Nora
Thursday, October 23rd: Readers’ Oasis
Monday, October 27th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, October 30th: Priscilla and Her Books
Thursday, October 30th: Book Wookie
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.


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