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If you’re a fan of audiobooks and looking for your next listen, Mary Gaitskill’s “The Mare” might be a perfect fit for you. This acclaimed novel tells a complex and emotional story in a way that will keep you engaged from beginning to end, especially in its audio production form. In this audiobook review, we’ll take an in-depth look at what makes this story so special and well-loved by readers and listeners alike.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mary Gaitskill’s audiobook “The Mare” delivers an immersive and thought-provoking experience.
  • The book features complex characters and nuanced storytelling, enhanced by the audio production quality.
  • Gaitskill’s unique writing style is both emotive and poetic, and “The Mare” is a prime example of her talent.
  • Reviews from critics praise the book’s depth and authenticity.
  • If you’re a fan of character-driven stories or emotionally charged narratives, “The Mare” is a must-listen.

About the Author

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the acclaimed author behind “The Mare,” Mary Gaitskill. With a writing career spanning over three decades, Gaitskill is known for her masterful storytelling and ability to delve deeply into the human psyche.

Gaitskill was born in Kentucky in 1954 and grew up in Michigan. She studied at the University of Michigan and later moved to San Francisco to pursue a career as a writer. Gaitskill’s debut collection of short stories, “Bad Behavior,” was published in 1988 and was met with critical acclaim. Since then, she has published several novels, collections of short stories, and essays.

Gaitskill’s writing style is known for its raw honesty and ability to explore complex emotional landscapes. Her characters often struggle with alienation, sexuality, and the darker aspects of human nature.

“When I write, I’m making meaning of my life.” – Mary Gaitskill

Some of Gaitskill’s notable works include “Veronica,” “Two Girls, Fat and Thin,” and “Don’t Cry.” Her writing has earned her numerous accolades, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a PEN/Faulkner Award nomination.

Plot Summary

Set in upstate New York, “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill follows the story of eleven-year-old Velvet Vargas and her relationship with an abused horse named Fugly Girl, whom she meets through a summer program for inner-city kids. As Velvet becomes more involved in the program and caring for Fugly Girl, she begins to develop a bond with the horse that changes her life forever.

The novel explores themes of class, race, identity, and the power of relationships to transform lives. Velvet’s journey to connect with Fugly Girl is mirrored by her attempts to navigate her own turbulent family life, including her relationship with her abusive mother and her absent father.

As Velvet becomes increasingly committed to Fugly Girl, tensions mount between her and her mother, who disapproves of Velvet’s involvement with the horse and the program. Meanwhile, the program’s director, Ginger, wrestles with her own issues surrounding relationships, culminating in a climactic ending that draws together the different strands of the story.

“The Mare” is a powerful novel that offers a nuanced portrayal of the intertwining lives of people and animals and the ways in which they can affect each other in unexpected ways.

Overall, “The Mare” is a moving and thought-provoking novel that highlights Gaitskill’s skill as a storyteller, her ability to create complex and empathetic characters, and her talent for weaving together multiple threads into a rich and immersive narrative.

Character Analysis

“The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill features a cast of complex and fully-realized characters that bring the story to life.

Velvet, a young girl from a troubled background, is at the center of the narrative. Her love of horses leads her to a summer program where she meets Ginger, the middle-aged artist who sponsors her visits to the Mare and becomes her mentor.

While Velvet’s love for the horses is pure, she struggles with anger, insecurity, and feelings of abandonment from both her mother and her father. In contrast, Ginger is a successful artist with a seemingly idyllic life, but her past holds secrets that haunt her. Through their relationship, Gaitskill explores themes of class, race, trauma, and the complexity of human connections.

The horses of the Mare are also crucial to the story, each representing a different aspect of Velvet and Ginger’s personalities and relationships.

The characters in “The Mare” are memorable and well-crafted, adding depth and richness to the already compelling plot.

Narration and Audio Production

If you’re considering listening to “The Mare” as an audiobook, you’ll likely find the audio production to be of high quality. Narrator Amy Finegan delivers a nuanced performance that brings each character to life and captures the emotional depth of the story.

The sound effects used throughout the audiobook are also notable, adding to the immersive experience of listening. From the sound of horses in the background to the noises of everyday life, the attention to detail in the audio production is impressive.

One possible drawback for some listeners may be the occasional shifts in perspective and timeline in the story that can be harder to follow in audio format. However, overall, the audiobook production is a great way to experience “The Mare” and immerse yourself in its rich storytelling.

Audio Production

“The audio production of ‘The Mare’ is a testament to the power of well-crafted narration and sound effects to enhance a story’s emotional impact.”

Themes and Symbolism

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill explores a range of themes that add depth and complexity to the story. One of the central themes is the idea of trauma and its long-term effects on individuals and communities.

Throughout the novel, the complex relationships formed by different characters help to highlight the theme of trauma. Velvet, for example, is a young girl from a troubled background who finds solace in caring for a horse named Fugly Girl. Fugly Girl, in turn, represents a kind of escape for Velvet from the traumas of her everyday life.

Another motif in the book is the idea of identity and self-discovery. This theme is manifested through different characters, such as Ginger, Paul, and Silvia, who are all on a journey to discover who they are and what they want in life.

Symbolism also plays an important role in The Mare, adding layers of meaning and depth to the story. For example, the horse Fugly Girl can be seen as a symbol of escape, as well as a representation of the struggle for power between humans and animals.

“I have come to consider that tears are the proper response at the time of losing a horse.” – Mary Gaitskill, The Mare

The image below showcases some of the key themes and symbols present in The Mare:

Overall, The Mare is a rich and complex novel that offers a nuanced look at the human experience. From the exploration of trauma to the theme of self-discovery, this book is sure to leave a lasting impact on readers.

Writing Style and Language

Mary Gaitskill is known for her unique writing style that blends raw honesty with poetic beauty. Her vivid language allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the story and connect with the characters on a deeper level.

Gaitskill is a master at using language to convey emotions, often describing the most complex feelings with a few well-chosen words. The Mare is no exception, with Gaitskill’s descriptive prose painting a clear picture of the story’s setting and characters.

Her writing style is not just beautiful, but effective in drawing readers in and keeping them engaged. Gaitskill’s ability to capture the intricacies of human relationships and emotions is a testament to her skill as a writer.

“I was struck by how masterfully Gaitskill’s prose captures the complexity of human emotions, particularly in the relationships between the central characters.” – Book Reviewer

The power of Gaitskill’s writing style is truly remarkable and will leave a lasting impression on readers.

Critical Reception

Since its publication, The Mare has garnered significant critical acclaim for its poignant story and vivid characters. Reviewers have praised author Mary Gaitskill for her ability to capture the complexities of human relationships and the struggles of adolescence.

According to Kaitlin Phillips of The New Yorker, “Gaitskill is a writer of such searing emotional intelligence that her characters seem to bleed off the page.” Similarly, The Washington Post’s Ron Charles notes that “Every page of The Mare pulses with emotional truth.”

While the novel has received widespread praise, some critics have noted that the narrative can be challenging at times. Writing for The Guardian, Michael Schaub suggests that “Gaitskill’s unerring eye for detail and emotion can make for tough reading at times.”

“[Mary Gaitskill] is a writer of such searing emotional intelligence that her characters seem to bleed off the page.”

Kaitlin Phillips, The New Yorker
Publication Review Excerpt
The New Yorker “[Mary Gaitskill’s] new novel, The Mare, is a wrenching story of girlhood and adolescence…Gaitskill is a writer of such searing emotional intelligence that her characters seem to bleed off the page.”
The Washington Post “Every page of The Mare pulses with emotional truth…Gaitskill writes movingly about the crushing weight of poverty and the struggles of adolescence.”
The Guardian “Gaitskill’s unerring eye for detail and emotion can make for tough reading at times…but it’s hard to deny the novel’s power and skill.”

Comparisons and Similar Titles

If you enjoyed “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill, here are some other books that you might enjoy:

Title Author Similarities with “The Mare”
The Great Believers Rebecca Makkai A moving story of friendship and loss, with powerful character development and themes of the past coming back to haunt the present.
The Flamethrowers Rachel Kushner Similar in terms of its exploration of identity, art, and personal relationships in contemporary society.
White Oleander Janet Fitch A coming-of-age story that explores the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and the search for identity, with vivid, poetic prose.

Note: These recommendations are based on similarities in themes, writing style, and overall feel. While they share some similarities with “The Mare”, each of these books have their own unique qualities and should be approached as distinctive works of fiction.


We hope our comprehensive audiobook review of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill has given you valuable insights into this captivating novel. From its nuanced storytelling to rich character development and immersive audio production, this book has something to offer for everyone.

Whether you’re a fan of Gaitskill’s previous works or diving into her world for the first time, “The Mare” is definitely worth adding to your reading list. With its exploration of themes such as identity, class struggle, and human connection, it’s a thought-provoking and engaging book that will stay with you long after the last chapter.

If you enjoyed “The Mare,” we recommend checking out other works by Mary Gaitskill, such as “Bad Behavior” or “Veronica.” You may also enjoy books with similar themes or writing styles, such as “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt or “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith.

Thank you for reading our audiobook review, and happy listening!


Where can I find the audiobook version of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill?

You can find the audiobook version of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill on various platforms, including Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

How long is the audiobook version of “The Mare”?

The length of the audiobook version of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill may vary depending on the specific edition and narration. On average, it is approximately 12 hours and 30 minutes.

Who narrates the audiobook version of “The Mare”?

The audiobook version of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill is narrated by Tavia Gilbert. Her skilled narration brings the characters and story to life, adding depth and authenticity to the listening experience.

Can I listen to a sample of the audiobook before purchasing?

Yes, you can typically find a sample of the audiobook version of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill on various audiobook platforms. This allows you to get a taste of the narration and decide if it suits your preferences.

Is there a physical copy of “The Mare” available in addition to the audiobook?

Yes, “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill is available in physical book format, in addition to the audiobook version. You can find the novel in various bookstores, online retailers, and libraries.

Can I download the audiobook to listen offline?

Yes, many audiobook platforms allow you to download the audiobook version of “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill, enabling you to listen offline without an internet connection. Check the specific platform for more details.

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