Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West

"He was also haunted by the Indian legend he first heard when he came to Montana.  Members of the Crow tribe were camped along the Yellowstone River near present-day Billings.  Warriors, returning from a long hunting trip, found the camp decimated by smallpox.  Their wives, mothers, children, were all dead.  So overcome with grief, sure they would join their loved ones in another world, they blinded their ponies and rode them off a sixty-foot cliff.
Five years after losing Amy, Sam still identified with those Crow warriors who couldn't bear life without their loved ones.  He would never admit to anyone that, on a daily basis, he entertained the thought of blinding his pony and riding off the cliff to be with her."  (p. 8)

Sam has escaped his previous life and now lives in Willow Creek, Montana.  He teaches English and coaches the local basketball team, in this small town that barely scrounges up enough players for a full team.  He goes through the motions, day by day, teaching and coaching.  The former he believes he excels at; the latter, is a different story with a losing record of 0-87!  This year is different though.  The world has handed Sam a few people that may just change that losing record, both on and off the court.

At first glance, this may seem like just another underdog sports story; however, there is so much more to West's novel.  He captures life in small Montana towns so brilliantly . . . the importance of high school teams to the entire community (particularly basketball), the sorrow of tragedy, and the hope that brings sunshine even into the darkest of days.

I personally grew up in one of these small Montana towns.  I played on those basketball courts. (In fact, my very own home town was briefly mentioned!)  I heard the roaring crowds.  I know the feeling of both victory and defeat brought to the team and the town.

I know that people stay in these towns for a wide variety of reasons, some for the short-term and others for their lifetime.  The gossip may keep the whole town in your business, but many still have secrets and pasts that are unspoken.

Blind Your Ponies brings you the love of the game, but it also brings you the love of a community like only small towns can bring you.  West brings you tragedy, but he also brings you hope.  This novel brings you an unforgettable masterpiece . . . one that reminds me of home, both the positives and the negatives, and that which contributed to who I am today . . . my values, my beliefs, my morals, my roots.

I find myself struggling to truly define the brilliance of this work.  Since I cannot quite seem to capture it like I want to, I will leave you with three things:  (1) Go read this book NOW (but be sure to have your box of tissues near). (2) This novel is yet another to make it into my favorites of the year.  Heck, it has made it into my favorites of all-time! AND (3) My favorite theme found throughout the book is "You may be outmanned in life, but it doesn't mean you have been outplayed."

I am left wondering . . . When one can so easily relate to a book, does it automatically become a favorite?  Do my strong feelings from this book come from my small town roots?


  1. I will always give a book a chance if it's set in a place I've lived in, even if it's not my 'normal' type of book (though I'm not sure I really do normal). It's certainly much easier to relate to a book if it's set in places you know well and have strong feelings about, although I don't find that it automatically becomes a favourite.

  2. Tracy ... I'm glad to hear that you think it doesn't automatically become a favorite. I really, really enjoyed this book, but I was worried it had to do with my relation to that life. With that said, I also think it can be a fabulous book to others that do not know. It is well written and definitely worth the read!

  3. Tif, what an outstanding review! I really want to read this book and am off to search for it right now!

  4. The Book Chook ... Thank you so much! I hope you are able to find it! It really is sooo good!

  5. I think the fact that this is a book that is so close to your own experiences makes your review mean so much more. I have to tell my brother about this book. He is always looking for books about Montana and Montana authors.

  6. Jenners ... Definitely recommend it to him! And, when he reads it, let me know what he thinks! :)


Thank you in advance for your comments! I love to hear reader's thoughts and respond to each one within the comment section. Please feel free to subscribe to the comment feed to ensure you can fully participate in the conversations.

Comments on posts older than 14 days are first approved through comment moderation. Word verification should not be turned on, so please notify me if it randomly appears.