The Horse Whisperer (novel)

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The Horse Whisperer
The Horse Whisperer book cover.jpg
First edition cover
Author Nicholas Evans
Language English
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback and paperback) and audio CD
Pages 678 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN 978-0-385-31523-4 (first edition, hardcover)

The Horse Whisperer is a 1995 novel by English author Nicholas Evans. The book was his debut novel, and gained significant success, becoming the 10th best selling novel in the United States in 1995, selling over 15 million copies. This also makes it one of the best-selling books of all time.[1]

The book was made into a film, also titled The Horse Whisperer, directed by and starring Robert Redford.


The novel starts in upstate New York where a teenage girl, Grace Mclean, and her friend, Judith, go riding on their horses, Pilgrim and Gulliver, on a snowy morning. As they ride up an icy slope, Gulliver slips and hits Pilgrim. Both horses fall, dragging the girls onto a road and into a collision with an eighteen wheeler. Judith and Gulliver are killed, while Grace and Pilgrim are severely injured. Grace, left with a partially amputated right leg, is bitter and withdrawn. Grace's mother, Annie, is a workaholic magazine editor, and her father, Robert, is a lawyer. The different approaches taken by each of Grace's parents in dealing with the accident strain relationships within the family.

Following the accident, Pilgrim is traumatised and uncontrollable, leading the people looking after him to treat him badly and to suggest that he be put down. Annie refuses to allow her horse to be put down and hears of a 'horse whisperer', Tom Booker. She undertakes a long cross country journey with Pilgrim and Grace to Montana.

On the Montana ranch, Tom works with Pilgrim and starts to make progress. Both Grace and Annie become happier because the ranch life suits them. During the stay, Annie and Tom become close and eventually begin an affair.

Despite the progress that Tom has made with Pilgrim, Grace is still unable to ride the horse. Tom attempts a drastic intervention by forcing the horse to lie down and having Grace stand on him. This technique works and horse and rider are reunited.

At the party marking the end of Grace's and Annie's stay in Montana, Grace finds out about the affair, and she rides recklessly into the countryside. Grace unintentionally rides into a herd of wild mustangs that begin a stampede. Tom rides after her and finds Pilgrim fighting with the mustang stallion. Tom manages to save Grace and Pilgrim, but then deliberately gets himself fatally trampled by the stallion, perhaps because he feels guilty about hurting Grace by having an affair with her mother.

Grace, Annie, and Pilgrim return to New York to rebuild their lives with Robert, but Annie discovers she is pregnant and eventually gives birth to a baby with Tom's blue eyes.


  • Grace Maclean —The daughter of Annie and Robert. She was severely injured in a riding accident at the beginning of the book.
  • Annie Graves —Grace's mother, who arranges the journey to the horse whisperer, and has an affair with him.
  • Robert Maclean —Grace's father, and Annie's husband. He appears only briefly in the book.
  • Tom Booker —The horse whisperer.
  • Pilgrim —Grace's Morgan horse.
  • Judith—Grace's best friend and the owner of Gulliver, both killed by an accident with a truck.


According to writer Nicholas Evans,[2] Tom Booker is modelled after horse whisperers Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and, in particular, their younger disciple Buck Brannaman. Evans has said, "Others have claimed to be the inspiration for Tom Booker in The Horse Whisperer. The one who truly inspired me was Buck Brannaman. His skill, understanding and his gentle, loving heart have parted the clouds for countless troubled creatures. Buck is the Zen master of the horse world."[3]


Robert Redford bought the film rights in 1995 for £3 million,[4] and the film The Horse Whisperer was released in 1998, with Redford himself in the title role as Tom Booker.

The film is mostly faithful to the book but does not include Grace's confrontation with the herd of Mustangs, or the death of Booker. Instead, Annie drives away from the ranch with Pilgrim in the trailer while Booker watches from the top of a hill. There is no indication in the movie that Annie and Tom sexually consummated their affair.


  1. ^ "Poisoning drama for local landowner". The Forres Gazette. 10 September 2008. 
  2. ^ "About Nicholas Evans: FAQ". Archived from the original on 4 December 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "Believe: A Horseman's Journey — Synopses & Reviews". Powell's Books. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "Horse Whisperer author Nicholas Evans faces lengthy dialysis to avoid kidney failure after eating deadly mushrooms". Daily Mail. 3 September 2008.