“On Swift Horses” by Shannon Pufahl— Go west

Pufahl, Shannon. “On Swift Horses”, Riverhead, 2019.

Go West

Amos Lassen

Muriel is a lonely and restless newlywed who has been, transplanted from rural Kansas hometown where she grew up to the dust San Diego. Her new life seems to be closing in on her and she misses her freethinking mother who dies dead Muriel was nineteen. Her brother-in-law, Julius who is both sly and itinerant made the world feel bigger than she had ever imagined. Muriel begins sneaking off to the Del Mar racetrack to bet and eavesdrop and learns the language of horses and risk. Meanwhile, Julius is in Las Vegas, working at a local casino where tourists watch atomic tests from the roof. He is falling in love with Henry, a young card cheat. When Henry is discovered for what he is, he is run out of town. Julius goes in search for him in the plazas and dive bars of Tijuana, swapping Vegas, a city of dangerous illusions and indiscretions for Tijuana, a city of dangerous illusions and indiscretions. 

“On Swift Horses” is a story of love and luck and of two people trying to find their place in a country that is coming apart even as it is a land of promise. Here are dreams deferred and defiant living. Through it we explore life that is filled with “hazard and touched by grace, furnished with the longevity of a postwar classic and the immediacy of the present tense.”

The gorgeous prose is lyrical and bold as are the two main characters.  We have adventure, quest, loss  and raw, guarded characters in a wonderfully and beautifully imagined search for lost time, lost luck, lost landscapes and lost love.


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