Abby Lovitt has always been more at ease with horses than with people. Her father insists they call all the mares "Jewel" and all the geldings "George" and warns Abby not to get attached: the horses are there to be sold. But with all the stress at school (the Big Four have turned against Abby and her friends) and home (her brother Danny is gone—for good, it seems—and now Daddy won’t speak his name), Abby seeks refuge with the Georges and the Jewels.
But there’s one gelding on her family’s farm that gives her no end of trouble: the horse who won’t meet her gaze, the horse who bucks her right off every chance he gets, the horse her father makes her ride and train, every day. She calls him the Ornery George.
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Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles and educated at Vassar College and the University of Iowa. She is currently a professor of English at Iowa State University. Her first critically acclaimed novel, The Greenlanders (1988), was preceded by three other novels and a highly regarded short story collection, The Age of Grief (1987). Smiley's novel A Thousand Acres (1991) received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Like King Lear, to which it invites comparisons, the novel deals with the division of property, a father, three daughters, and the powerful feelings and secret crimes that bind them. Familial relations preoccupy Smiley throughout her works. "I think the tensions of family life are the interesting things to talk about since I accept the closeness of family as a given," she commented in an interview. She eyes the shifting ground of love relations without illusion, yet with sympathy: her portrait of marriage through the meditations of a 35-year-old dentist and father of three girls in The Age of Grief (1987) conveys beautifully the compromises of closeness and the intensities and confusions of ordinary life."Everything I write, I write in a sort of investigative mode," Smiley has said, "and to me an interesting character is a person who is trying to figure out what's right and trying to reconcile everything that they are told with what their feelings are. I think my characters are usually trying to come up with some right way to act, or even to think or be, in the face of a lot of confusing input."