Thursday, June 02, 2022

Memoir Review: The Year of the Horses

One of the last books I read for this year's Booktopia event in May was a memoir, The Year of the Horses by Courtney Maum. This moving personal story of depression and healing is sometimes wrenching and sometimes joyful but always engaging. 

The author shares her story of a depression so severe, with insomnia so horrible, that she finally seeks professional help. Her new therapist, who barely seems old enough to have completed his schooling, is actually quite helpful and eventually suggests she try horseback riding, which leads Courtney back through a torrent of childhood memories, both good and bad. She was once a pretty typical horse-crazy little girl, who took riding lessons and cared for "her" horse, and dreamed of Pegasus and other magical horses. Her beloved time with horses came to an abrupt end. Now, thirty years later, she returns to the stables, uncertain where this will lead but feeling an immediate peace with the smell of hay and warm horse bodies. She gradually, slowly, relearns how to ride, finding an activity just for her, in the midst of her busy life as a wife, mother, and writer. Just riding isn't enough, though, and she soon becomes fascinated with the sport of polo, something she never encountered before. Throughout her telling of this present-day story of horses and healing, Courtney returns back to her childhood, sharing memories that show early indications of depression and anxiety in the midst of a chaotic, unsettled adolescence. Bit by bit, Courtney's past and present merge, as her therapy and her love of horses--and newfound love of polo--begin to help her heal and move forward.

I'll admit, I was never one of those horse-crazy girls as a child and have never experienced severe depression, so I wasn't sure I would be able to relate to this memoir going into it. I've enjoyed horseback riding--as a child and as an adult--but was never really zealous about it. But, Courtney writes about her experiences with such depth and passion that I was pulled right into her story, and I could certainly relate to her experiences as a wife, mother, and writer. She writes about her feelings and her life with a visceral openness that engages the reader. In fact, despite the differences in our experiences, I marked many passages in her memoir that spoke to me, like this passage about the experience of being mother to a child who is growing up:

"Positive, selfless touch was something I was in need of in my thirty-eighth year on earth. The baby who had lived her life strapped to my chest, cooing and blowing bubbles into my exposed skin, was now a toddler who wanted to do everything herself, who squirmed out of my arms when I was craving intimacy, who survived on cheese crackers and apple cider instead of my own milk. My body seemed invisible; it wasn't looked at by my husband, and because we lived in the middle of the woods in an already rural area, it wasn't looked at by anyone else."

It's these kinds of raw, honest emotions that drew me into this memoir, despite my different experiences. Isn't that what the best memoirs do? They give us insight into lives different from ours while also presenting universal truths of human nature. Courtney Maum is quite talented in this regard, and I was fully immersed in her story. She is a new-to-me author, and I would like to try some of her novels.

266 pages, Tin House Books

Blackstone Publishing

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Alphabet Soup Challenge - Y

Nonfiction Reader Challenge (category = Published in 2022)

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



Or you can order The Year of the Horses from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


1 comment:

  1. I am not sure this memoir is for me, but I am glad it ended up being a good book for you.