“A Horse Named Sorrow” by Trebor Healey— Going Home

Healey, Trebor. “A Horse Named Sorrow”, Terrace Books, University of Wisconsin Press, 2012.

Going Home

Amos Lassen

When I hear that Trebor Healey has a new book out, I rush to read it as he is one of the authors that paints with words and always has a satisfying story to tell. This time he tells us of Seamus Blake and his meeting with Jimmy and in doing so he tells us of San Francisco in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Seamus is twenty-one and troubled and the opposite of Jimmy who is self-possessed and strong. Jimmy has just come west by bicycle from Buffalo, New York. Seamus feels that his life is about to change for the better by knowing Jimmy but this was at the height of the AIDS epidemic and Jimmy was soon gone, a victim of the disease. Before his death, Jimmy told Seamus, “Take me back the way I came” and Seamus was obligated to keep the promise he made.

Seamus gets on his bike and begins a journey with Jimmy’s ashes to take him home to Buffalo and hopefully to find a new life. On the way, he has adventures with “truck drivers, waitresses, college kids, farmers, ranchers, Marines, and other travelers” and what he learned from them helped him to see his own life differently as well as to view Jimmy’s death from a new perspective. He also meets a young Native American who was getting over his mother’s death and we soon realize that Healy is telling us something about life and death and the way we live. Seamus’s story and his grief evolve into a story of redemption and become universal.

Healey writes such glorious prose that is not but pleasure reading him and when that is combined with a beautiful story, we are swept away by words and taken away from the world in which we live. There is a wit here that borders on caustic yet the story is very sad and very sensitive. Bringing together politics and love, Healy gives us a story that makes us laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.

The San Francisco of the novel is vivid and then the trip west becomes an experience that we rarely get n literature. There is a sense of mythology that is coupled with silences and as Seamus travels and we are with him, the beauty of the story unfolds. There is magic here and you do not want to miss being a part of it.