February 23, 2023

HORSE: A NOVEL by Geraldine Brooks

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

Print Length: 416 pages

Previous Author Publications:

  • The Secret Chord (2015)
  • Caleb’s Crossing (2011)
  • People of the Book (2008)
  • March, A Novel (2005)
  • Year of Wonders, A Novel of the Plague (2001)
  • Foreign Correspondent (1997)
  • Nine Parts of Desire, The Hidden World of Islanic Women (1994)


In her latest book, Horse, Geraldine Brooks addresses slavery, racism and the current state of race relations in the US. as she recounts the story of Lexington, a champion race horse that competed in the late 1800s and Jarret, the black trainer who devoted his life to caring for the horse. Building on historical facts about horse racing in Kentucky prior to the Civil War, Brooks underscores how important enslaved black trainers and jockeys were to the success of Southern race tracks.

As she weaves the story of Lexington across time, Brooks narrates the relationship between Theo, a Black art historian and Jess, a white conservator who is studying Lexington’s skeleton that was preserved by the Smithsonian. This rich historical account offers a compelling story of how slaves were treated in the South, coupled with an unflinching look at the continued legacy of racism that persists today.


Jacobs, Alexandra, “In ‘Horse,’ Geraldine Brooks sets a consideration of race at the track,” The New York Times, June 7, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/07/books/review-horse-geraldine-brooks.html

Silcox, Beejay, “Horse by Geraldine Brooks review – a confident novel of racing and race.” The Guardian, June 9, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/jun/10/horse-by-geraldine-brooks-review-a-confident-novel-of-racing-and-race

Kisner, Jordan, “White author, black paragons.” The Atlantic, July/August 2022. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/07/geraldine-brooks-horse-book-review/638449/

Brown, Jeffrey, “Author Geraldine Brooks delves into an untold story of a racehorse and his caretaker.” PBS News Hour, July 8, 2022. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/author-geraldine-brooks-delves-into-an-untold-story-of-a-racehorse-and-his-caretaker#transcript

Barenbaum, Rachel, “On a skeleton in the Smithsonian: a conversation with Geraldine Brooks.” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 24, 2022. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/on-a-skeleton-in-the-smithsonian-a-conversation-with-geraldine-brooks/


  • Brook’s narrative moves between the late 1800s in Kentucy and 2020 in Washington, D.C. What parallels does she draw between these two time periods in terms of race relations?

  • When she selects a book project, Brooks has said, “It needs to be a story where you can know some fascinating things, but you can’t find out everything. So I’m looking for those voids that imagination has to be deployed to fill.” In Horse, how well has Brooks interwoven historical facts about life in the 1800s with a poignant story about people who lived during that time?

  • In Horse, Brooks details the life of Lexington as a champion race horse and then explores how his legacy lived on through his preserved skeleton and the oil paintings that captured his fame. In what ways, does Brooks use Lexington’s story to craft a narrative throughline that ties together the past with present time?

  • Brooks has been criticized for appropriating the stories of the two black men who are the protagonists of her novel. In response, Brooks has said, “I came to the conclusion that it was better to make the honest attempt than to leave the story untold. And also, I feel like any attempt at empathy, no matter how imperfect it might be, shouldn’t be despised, because we need more attempts at empathy, not fewer.” Through her narrative, has Brooks succeeded in providing an empathetic portrayal of the racism experienced by Blacks in the 1800s and more recently in 2020?

Leave A Comment

Every month I offer a Book Club suggestion that highlights authors who write about their family history and explore themes of identity.
If you have books you would like to recommend, contact me at: kaia@kaiagallagher.com

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Kaia Gallagher, Author, 7934 S CLAYTON CIR, Centennial, CO, 80122, https://kaiagallagher.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact