Trained to Read

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In his review of Alyson Hagy’s Boleto, New York Times writer Bruce Machart writes, “Good stories teach us how to read them, and the opening pages of Boleto are entertaining, entrancing teachers.” I agree with Machart’s review because I find myself invested in the novel after only several pages. The immediate familiarity and patience with which Hagy writes is reassuring, in the same manner that Will talks to his filly.

As readers, we assume the role of a horse brought into the physical and figurative frontier of Will Testerman’s world. Hagy’s depiction of the west is inviting, and yet unembellished and unforgiving.  Hagy writes, “When [Will] stepped out into the unsettled morning with the pressure gauge cold in his hand, the air pushing down through the valley of the Greybull ran icy along the edges of his jaw. It was late spring in Wyoming. The river was as crumpled and brown as a paper bag” (9). In this manner, Hagy is an effective storyteller.  And thus we follow her voice and her lead, understanding within the first few pages that this is a novel of honesty and perseverance.

Trained to the author’s writing, we become invested in the narrative and its deliberate crafting.  My favorite aspect of fiction is the language. It is the willful surrendering of both attention and imagination that is crucial to the dynamic between author and reader. A trust as integral and simple as the one Will assures his filly: “I will always be good to you, he said. That’s all I really need to promise” (32). Indeed, in the narrative we have found a beloved protagonist, and in Hagy a trustworthy teacher.

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