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The Mare by Mary Gaitskill - First chapter extract

The Mare is Mary Gaitskill’s first novel in over a decade. Exploring themes of parenthood, race and class, there are big ideas and extremely compelling characters for reading groups to get their teeth into.

Ginger is in her forties and a recovering alcoholic when she meets and marries Paul. When it becomes clear it’s too late for her to have a baby of her own, she tries to persuade him to consider adoption – but he refuses. As a compromise, they sign up to an organisation that sends poor inner-city kids to stay with country families for a few weeks in the summer, and so one hot July day eleven year old Velveteen Vargas, a Dominican girl from one of Brooklyn’s toughest neighbourhoods, arrives in their lives, and Ginger is instantly besotted.

While Velvet returns her affection, she finds the intensity of it bewildering. Velvet discovers she has a natural talent for riding and a deep affinity with the damaged horses cared for there. But when Ginger begins to entertain fantasies of adopting her, things start to get complicated for everyone involved.

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