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Wildfire is a horse story with people in it.

The setting — Utah wilderness bordering the Colorado River — becomes a part of the action.


Wildfire by Zane Grey
1917 bestseller #5. Project Gutenberg EBook #2066. My grade: C+.

Wildfire getting started high in the mountains.

   Wildfire includes a real wild fire.

If Lucy Bostil loves horses, her father might be said to lust after them. John Bostil wants to own all the fast horses.

In the mountains, Lin Slone is trailing a wild stallion called Wildfire.

At last, Slone gets close enough to lasso the red stallion.

Exercising one of her father’s racehorses, Lucy finds Slone’s mount and Wildfire, both exhausted, and Slone himself badly battered.

The horses and Slone both fall for Lucy.

Lucy and Slone decide to have Lucy ride Wildfire in the big race against her father’s Sage King.

That sets up Lucy to be kidnapped and held for ransom while her kidnappers are pursued by horse thieves.

The fast-paced story is told by an omniscient narrator through an annoying series of “meanwhile back at the ranch” shifts.

There’s little character development: People don’t analyze events or reflect on behavior.

But few novelists can match Zane Grey’s physical descriptions. I found myself holding my breath as Slone and his horse slid and scrambled down and up the Grand Canyon’s walls.

Despite its flaws, Wildfire is breathtaking reading.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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frontpiece from "My Friend Flicka"

Everyone who has heard—or perhaps wailed—“if only I had a horse (or kitten or dog) of my own” will recognize the premise of Mary O’Hara’s novel My Friend Flicka.

Ken McLaughlin, a dreamy kid, the despair of his ex-military father and exemplary older brother, has failed fifth grade.

Ken insists that he’d be different if he had a colt of his own to raise. His mother pleads Ken’s case and Rob McLaughlin relents. When Ken chooses a colt from a line of horses his father regards as untamable, he ignites conflict within the household.

Often thought of as a horse story or a children’s story, My Friend Flicka really is not either. Horses are the McLaughlin business and passion; they become the canvas on which the family’s portrait is painted. The real focus of the novel is the family. The novel is as suitable for adults as it is for underachieving middle-school kids or for horse-crazy teens.

To achieve the happy ending that 1940’s young adult novels required, O’Hara resorts to a hackneyed plot contrivance, but she’s masterful at creating vivid, believable personalities.

The novel beats any of the film versions of the story. Look for it at your library or buy a copy at your local bookstore to give as a Christmas gift.

My Friend Flicka
By Mary O’Hara
J. B. Lippincott, 1941
353 pages

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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