T H E H O R S E M E N D E R
The Horsemender is an ecological novel set in a dustbowl-era American future. In a fertile but brutally colonized valley, the protagonist relies on handwritten notes in the margins of her veterinary manual, an ancient heirloom, to care for horses and livestock. Soon her mysterious family past returns, forcing her to contend with the divisive effects of colonialism and the ever-evolving quality of memory, text, and ecology.
S Y N O P S I S
Sixteen-year-old Cora is a horsemender, one of the last. Raised and trained by her grandfather, Wayland, she cares for the valuable livestock of Henry's Valley, where farmers scrape out a living under constant threat of dust storms. In the west looms the Drowned Coast, ruins of the mysterious “Goners” whose society collapsed a century ago, leaving behind a poisoned earth, brutal hunger, and unexplained infertility among livestock.
Shortly before Cora’s birth, Henry's Valley was annexed by the New Republic—a rag-tag empire spreading across much of North America, consolidating valuable salvage, farmland, and fertile animals. Though the New Republic offers protection against raiders, Cora can’t help but resent their crippling grain tax, their laws that require her to report pregnant animals, and the young soldiers who harass her on the road.
She is stunned when a soldier appears on her and Wayland’s doorstep one night, asking for her mother, Silvia. All Cora knows about her mother is that she abandoned her shortly after giving birth. Cora's confusion grows when Wayland agrees to help the desperate stranger.
Later that night, on the cusp of a dust storm, more soldiers arrive in pursuit of this visitor. They attack Wayland and force Cora to flee with the fugitive who destroyed her home. Soon she finds herself thrown into a journey that leads deeper and deeper into her mother’s past—and the truth about how much the earth has lost.