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The Horse

A novel by

'Tremendously compelling . . . as succinct and wrenching as a well-honed folk song.'

'A bruised and beautiful instant classic.'


Willy Vlautin's most personal novel yet - a poetic and deeply moving story about what it really takes to be a musician.

'There's a horse', he whispered. 'An old horse that's standing in front of my house. He's blind and he won't eat and I don't know what to do.'

65-year-old Al Ward is several years into an isolated stint living on old mining land in Nevada left to him by his great uncle. One morning, the horse arrives outside his home, seemingly unable to feed itself or stay safe from coyote attacks. 6000 feet up, 30 miles from the nearest town and broken by alcoholism and anxiety, Al must decide what to do.

Intercut with Al's present-day story are episodes from his long life as a songwriter and guitarist. Beginning in Reno, we follow his chequered career as a touring musician, struggling to make ends meet and to survive the reality of a like devoid of the glitz and glamour of mainstream success.

Vlautin's new novel is a gorgeous homage to the uncelebrated musicians who make our lives more joyful, and, as always, an exploration of loneliness, humanity and resilience.
'Another classic from one of America's greatest storytellers.'


'A terrific parable of art and aging.'


Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Willy Vlautin's characters blaze with honesty, fighting for their slim chance at the American dream." - Rene Denfeld

"There's not another writer out there, living or dead, that I trust with my heart more than Willy Vlautin, and he breaks it every damn time. In Al Ward's love and loss, in his decency, his pathos, and his struggle to endure, Vlautin has gifted us a paean to the power of song. The Horse is another classic from one of America's greatest storytellers." - Jonathan Evison

"I loved The Horse like I love all Willy Vlautin joints - for its melodic prose and its unflinching heart. This terrific parable of art and aging, laced within the bittersweet story of an old casino musician, is like the literary equivalent of a classic album by Tom Waits or Townes Van Zandt." - Jess Walter

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