The Mare

Longlisted for the 2017 Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction 

One of the New Yorker’s Best Books of 2015

A 2015 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

A New York Times Editor’s Choice

An NPR Best Book of 2015

An Amazon Best Book of the Month for November 2015

Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award

An AudioFile Editors’ Pick

One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015

A Kirkus Reviews Pick for 10 Characters You Won't Soon Forget

From the author of Veronica, a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction, comes Mary Gaitskill’s most poignant and powerful work yet: the story of a Dominican girl, the white woman who introduces her to riding, and the horse who changes everything for her.

Velveteen Vargas is an eleven-year-old from Brooklyn who is granted a summer vacation in the country, courtesy of the nonprofit Fresh Air Fund. Her host family is a couple in upstate New York: Ginger, a failed artist on the fringe of Alcoholics Anonymous, and Paul, an academic who wonders what it will mean to “make a difference” in such a contrived situation. Here we see the couple’s changing relationship with Velvet over the course of several years, as well as Velvet’s powerful encounter with the horses at the stable down the road, as Gaitskill weaves together Velvet’s vital inner-city community and the privileged country world of Ginger and Paul.

The timeless story of a girl and a horse is joined with the story of people from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds trying to meet one another honestly. It is a novel that is raw, striking, and completely original.

Editorial Reviews

“Remarkably tender, though thankfully not sentimental…A truthful meditation on the limits of birth and motherhood, surrogate motherhood, and mothering yourself.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Nearly every page of The Mare shimmers with exacting and sometimes hallucinatory observation.”

New York Times

A raw, beautiful story about love and mutual delusion, in which the fierce erotics of mother love and romantic love and even horse fever are swirled together.”


“The juxtaposition of these women’s lives…is dramatic. It’s an education to see how different life looks filtered through the lens of privilege, race, and age.”

Los Angeles Times

“Bracing in its rigorous truth seeking, subtle and capacious in its moral vision, Gaitskill’s work feels more real than real life.”

Boston Globe

“A rich back-and-forth narrative that encompasses falling in love, growing up, and doing right in worlds of privilege and poverty.”

BUST Guide

“National Book Award finalist Gaitskill takes a premise that could have been preachy, sentimental, or simplistic…and makes it candid and emotionally complex, spare, real, and deeply affecting. Gaitskill explores the complexities of love (mares, meres…) to bring us a novel that gallops along like a bracing bareback ride on a powerful Thoroughbred.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Four excellent narrators tell Velvet’s story through various points of view in alternating chapters. Each narrator perfectly defines the complexities of the character being portrayed, while showing different sides of Velvet…When Velvet’s abusive but loving mother makes a rare appearance, it’s memorable. At times, listeners will be wondering which character is telling the truth—and hoping that Velvet will make the right decisions in the end. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


“In soaring language that well captures being ‘in the zone,’ whether it’s painting or riding, Gaitskill brings home her theme of the importance of honoring one’s gifts and the hard work of finding the best outlet for creative expression.”


Author Biography

Mary Gaitskill is the author of the novel Veronica, a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award and named one of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2005. She is also the author of a short-story collection and the acclaimed novels Because They Wanted To and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. Her stories and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). Her short story “Secretary” was the basis for the film of the same name.

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Reader Biography

Lloyd James (a.k.a. Sean Pratt) has been narrating since 1996 and has recorded over six hundred audiobooks. He is a seven-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award and has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award. His critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr. and Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, among others.

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