On Swift Horses

On Swift Horses

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Named a Most Anticipated Book of Fall by The New York Times, Real Simple, Electric Literature, and more.

“Cinematic . . . The spaces she creates for her characters . . . have the aura of realms.” —The New York Times Book Review

A lonely newlywed and her wayward brother-in-law follow divergent and dangerous paths through the postwar American West.


Muriel is newly married and restless, transplanted from her rural Kansas hometown to life in a dusty bungalow in San Diego. The air is rich with the tang of salt and citrus, but the limits of her new life seem to be closing in: She misses her freethinking mother, dead before Muriel's nineteenth birthday, and her sly, itinerant brother-in-law, Julius, who made the world feel bigger than she had imagined. And so she begins slipping off to the Del Mar racetrack to bet and eavesdrop, learning the language of horses and risk. Meanwhile, Julius is testing his fate in Las Vegas, working at a local casino where tourists watch atomic tests from the roof, and falling in love with Henry, a young card cheat. When Henry is eventually discovered and run out of town, Julius takes off to search for him in the plazas and dives of Tijuana, trading one city of dangerous illusions and indiscretions for another.

On Swift Horses is a debut of astonishing power: a story of love and luck, of two people trying to find their place in a country that is coming apart even as it promised them everything.

Title:On Swift Horses
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780525538110
Format Type:

    On Swift Horses Reviews

  • karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!“What a thing is progress.”set in 1956 in the american west, this is a beautifully written book about two characters at odds with the postwar values of a country in the process of ...

  • Angela M

    If it wasn’t for the amazing prose, I would have given up on this. It’s pretty slow moving for a novel that isn’t very long and I couldn’t really feel an emotional connection with one of the m...

  • Rachel

    On Swift Horses is a book that seemed like it was going to be tailor-made for me; queer historical fiction and horses are two things I'm always drawn to.  But this unfortunately ended up being a slog...

  • Roman Clodia

    An interesting evocation of 1950s America and two characters wanting more from life than they're 'supposed' to want - but the writing style which is all 'tell', very little 'show' and hardly any dialo...

  • Anna Luce

    DNF 30%On Swift Horses has had an almost soporific effect on me. Through repeated attempts I managed to read a few paragraphs, at times a few pages even. Soon however my eyes would glaze over as my mi...

  • Christopher Alonso

    I can't remember the last time I read a debut novel where the writing was as self-assured as ON SWIFT HORSES. The book follows Muriel and her brother-in-law Julius through alternating points of view, ...

  • Dennis

    On Swift Horses is a historical fiction novel, taking place in in the Western United States in the 1950s. The three central characters⁠—Muriel, Lee, and Julius are all in the midst of change. ...

  • Annie

    In the past, I’ve described books as slow burns. What I usually mean is that, as I read them, I can get a sense of a lit fuse at the center of the book. There are little sparks, gathering speed, usu...

  • Terry

    I have experienced this stunning novel and enjoyed both readings through it.I didn't feel as if I could do it justice with just one. Like a fine bottle of wine, you first swirl and smell it, take in t...

  • Bryn Greenwood

    There are still a few days of the year left, but I’m calling it: this is my favorite book from 2019. I had a profound sense that I *knew* these people, even when I didn’t fully understand them, in...