FALLING FROM HORSES

Molly Gloss

In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood. His little sister has been gone a couple of years now, his parents are finding ranch work and comfort for their loss where they can, but for Bud, Echol Creek, where he grew up and first learned to ride, is a place he can no longer call home. So he sets his sights on becoming a stunt rider in the movies — and rubbing shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth.

On the long bus ride south, Bud meets a young woman who also harbors dreams of making it in the movies,

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In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood. His little sister has been gone a couple of years now, his parents are finding ranch work and comfort for their loss where they can, but for Bud, Echol Creek, where he grew up and first learned to ride, is a place he can no longer call home. So he sets his sights on becoming a stunt rider in the movies — and rubbing shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth.

On the long bus ride south, Bud meets a young woman who also harbors dreams of making it in the movies, though not as a starlet but as a writer, a real writer. Lily Shaw is bold and outspoken, confident in ways out of proportion with her small frame and bookish looks. But the two strike up an unlikely kinship that will carry them through their tumultuous days in Hollywood — and, as it happens, for the rest of their lives.

Acutely observed, Falling from Horses charts what was to be a glittering year in the movie business through the wide eyes and lofty dreams of two people trying to make their mark on the world, or at least make their way in it. Molly Gloss weaves a remarkable tale of humans and horses, hope and heartbreak, narrated by one of the most winning narrators ever to walk off the page.

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  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Hardcover
  • October 2014
  • 336 Pages
  • 9780544279292

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$25.00

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About Molly Gloss

Molly Gloss is the best-selling author The Hearts of Horses, The Jump-Off Creek, winner of both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Oregon Book Award, The Dazzle of Day, winner of the PEN Center West fiction prize, and Wild Life, winner of the James Tiptree Jr. Award

Praise

“I read Falling from Horses in two gulps. The writing is gorgeous, the setting so beautifully realized, both time and place, the narrative voice unforgettable, and all the characters so real and compelling. Tremendous, page-turning….I could not have loved it more.”

Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club

“Falling From Horses is a clear-eyed, breathtaking look at a small corner of life unknown to most: cowboy stunt riders in 1930’s Hollywood. Gloss adeptly brings to life characters in search of the American Dream, while illuminating the “myth of the cowboy West” and the harsh realities that come along with it. A moving story filled with heart and insight by an author whose love of the American landscape rings loudly through each page.”—Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers and The Samurai’s Garden

Discussion Questions

Bud sets out for Hollywood intending to find work as a movie cowboy. What does he imagine this work will look like? What are his preconceived notions about the Hollywood movie industry?

Much of the novel takes place at the cusp of World War Two. Do you see events in the larger world having much impact on the characters’ lives? How will the war affect each of them?

How is the ranching life of Bud’s childhood different from, or the same as, the ranching life he has seen portrayed in western films?

Lily came to Hollywood determined to become a screenwriter. What qualities did she possess that might have helped her succeed? What roadblocks stood in her way?

Did you think the relationship between Bud and Lily would blossom into romance? What traits in each of them could have led them, instead, toward lifelong friendship?

Parts of the novel are set on a ranch in the 1920s and early 1930s, a time of worldwide economic depression, drought, and technological advances. How were these things changing the way of life for ranchers in the West? Can you think of aspects of ranch life that remain the same today as in the 1880s when Elbert Echol and his wife first settled on their ranch?

Late in the novel, Bud speaks of ways in which “the cowboy stories went wrong,” and he tells us “the humanity has been hollowed out of our movie heroes and villains.” What do you think he means by this? Do you agree with his statements?

Bud has seen violence and death both in his life on the Echol Creek ranch, and in his work as a stunt rider for the movie industry. Explore the differences between these experiences.