The Year of the Horses: A Memoir (Paperback)
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A Good Morning America, Vanity Fair, TODAY, NYLON and PureWow Best Book of May and a Publishers Weekly and Boston.com Best Book of Summer
An Amazon Best Book of 2022 So Far (Biography & Memoir Category)
Sharp, heartfelt, and cathartic, The Year of the Horses captures a woman’s journey out of depression and the horses that guide her, physically and emotionally, on a new path forward.
At the age of thirty-seven, Courtney Maum finds herself in an indoor arena in Connecticut, moments away from stepping back into the saddle. For her, this is not just a riding lesson, but a last-ditch attempt to pull herself back from the brink even though riding is a relic from the past she walked away from. She hasn’t been on or near a horse in over thirty years.
Although Courtney does know what depression looks like, she finds herself refusing to admit, at this point in her life, that it could look like her: a woman with a privileged past, a mortgage, a husband, a healthy child, and a published novel. That she feels sadness is undeniable, but she feels no right to claim it. And when both therapy and medication fail, Courtney returns to her childhood passion of horseback riding as a way to recover the joy and fearlessness she once had access to as a young girl. As she finds her way, once again, through the physical and emotional landscapes of riding, Courtney becomes reacquainted with herself not only as a rider but as a mother, wife, daughter, writer, and woman. Alternating timelines and braided with historical portraits of women and horses alongside history’s attempts to tame both parties, The Year of the Horses is an inspiring love letter to the power of animals—and humans—to heal the mind and the heart.
About the Author
Courtney Maum is the author of the novels Costalegre, Touch, and I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, and an award-winning guide for writers, Before and After the Book Deal. A writing coach and educator, Courtney’s mission is to help people hold on to the joy of art-making in a culture obsessed with turning artists into brands. Courtney’s essays and articles about creativity have been widely published in outlets like The New York Times, The Guardian, and Interview. She lives in Litchfield County, Connecticut, with her family, where she runs a nonprofit learning collaborative for artists called The Cabins.
Beautiful, lyrical. . . . The past interweaves with the present in this fabulous, memorable memoir.
— Good Morning America
Expansive. . . . rekindling a childhood love of horses as an adult—and as a mother—is a force for positive good within [Maum’s] family; the barn becomes a place to bond with her daughter, and working with the animals teaches her to find patience and generosity as a partner and parent.
— Vanity Fair
Cathartic and honest . . . about the power of animals and how their presence can help us heal.
— Weike Wang - TODAY
With humor and insight, a novelist and young mother reflects on how a year of indulging in her childhood pleasure of horseback riding helped her slip out of depression and recover her lost identity.
— The New York Times Book Review
Artfully written and deeply relatable.
Lessons about the soulful value of acting just for pleasure.
— Electric Lit
Ride with Maum and celebrate her using horses to redefine what it means to be a mother.
— Chicago Review of Books
Touching and insightful.
— The Millions
Author of Touch and Costalegre, Courtney Maum writes honestly and openly about confronting depression in her 30s and, when all else failed, taking up horseback riding again.
— Katie Couric Media
— The U.S. Polo Association
— Samantha Irby, author of Wow, No Thank You
Tender, honest, and beautifully written.
— Kate Baer, #1 Bestselling author of What Kind Of Woman
Searing, lucid, tender and wise, The Year of the Horses is a moving, beautifully-written interrogation into a complicated, privileged childhood and its aftermath. Courtney Maum weaves together the sensory, tactile world of horses and their capacity to heal us, along with one of the most illuminating and powerful depictions of depression I have ever read. Oh, and it’s also a page-turner. I tore through it with immense pleasure.
— Dani Shapiro, author Inheritance
Gorgeously written, wry but loving, heartbreaking and, most of all, roving. . . . The Year of the Horses is a memoir of power and beauty and pain that moves across the world like the beautiful horses that carry it.
— Lisa Taddeo, author of Animal
I was sold at Courtney Maum and “horses,” TBH, but pleasantly surprised to learn about the other threads in this one: Maum’s experience of reckoning with depression, plus historical portraits of other horseback-riding ladies. Saddle up, we’re going riding.
In this intricate but clearly-told narrative of questioning her mind, her body, and her choices, Maum investigates not only what led her to a deep depression in her late thirties, but the conversations around what depression looks like, who is “allowed” to struggle with mental health, and what it means to reckon with a past she thought she’d left behind.
— The Rumpus
Beautiful and personal.
— WAMC, NPR Affiliate
— The Arkansas International
The Year of the Horses is that rare gem of a book that continues giving long after you’ve read the last word. Wise, transparent, and completely transformative, Maum has written a transcendent meditation on the ways we grip our old self narratives, but how, with some willingness and some belief, we can change them into something that serves us better. A deep, soulful book I’ll never forget.
— Chelsea Bieker, author of Heartbroke
A beautifully written story of Maum’s own journey as well as a powerful ode to the reason there are so many re-riders who find magic again in horses.
— Beth Rasin - The Chronicle of the Horse
Stunning and heartfelt, a must-read for anyone who understands the healing power of horses.
— Elise Loehnen, host of Pulling the Thread
Courtney Maum dives into her own life with the same fearlessness and honesty that she brings to her fiction. The Year of the Horses is a beautiful, unflinching exploration of darkness and self-forgiveness, terror and tenderness.
— Hala Alyan, author of Salt Houses
If, like me at age 50, you have a hankering to resume riding again (never mind that it’s been 34 years), this is the book for you. Courtney will show you her way to this particular form of personal salvation.
— Sally Mann, author of Hold Still
Courney Maum writes not from an ideal of who she should be but as she is; it lacks performative overtones or those typical bits where the reader is assured the author is self-aware. No, it’s nothing like that—The Year of the Horses sings like the world actually feels, offering readers permission to be who we are, written by one of the best, a writer’s writer, with a maturity that reveals her decades long devotion to her craft.
— Holly Whitaker, author of Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol
The concept of finding safety in a dangerous sport won’t make sense to everyone, but the way that Courtney found meaning and magic in horses resonates with me. As a polo player, I loved the sometimes laugh-out-loud journey of an adult trying against all odds to learn the sport of kings. This is a great memoir that somehow manages to be both deeply moving, and funny.
— Kareem Rosser, author of Crossing the Line: A Fearless Team of Brothers and the Sport That Changed Their Lives Forever
A wonderful read, whether you are a horse person or not.
— Hudson Valley Magazine
An inspiration. . . . celebrates preserving one’s inner wildness.
— Polo Lady Magazine
The Year of The Horses will appeal to readers looking for an alternative journey out of dark times, those interested in equine and animal connections and anyone who wants to read a lyrical, insightful journey towards finding what feels like enough.
— Hippocampus Magazine
— Full Stop
Engaging, enjoyable and full of horse knowledge.
— Chick Lit Central
— Dandelion Chandelier
Many women may find much to relate to in Maum's vulnerable and human story, which could be a favorite for book clubs.
Entertaining. . . . vivid and exuberantly cathartic.
— Publishers Weekly
Candid, deeply moving.
— Shelf Awareness
Honest and superbly written. . . . The Year of the Horses is gusty, rewarding, and witty.
— COWGIRL Magazine