“This densely atmospheric debut sinks its hooks deep into post-war America’s tender underbelly, exposing the homophobia and bigotry beneath a nation’s renewed spirit of hope and opportunity. Muriel and Julius are restless outsiders, siblings-in-law who share a passion for gambling as well as their more furtive passion. Both are trying to make their own opportunities to find love and happiness—a gamble that one will unexpectedly win and one will just as unexpectedly lose. An immersive and rewarding first novel.”
Karen Brissette, Shakespeare & Co
A Lambda Literary Award Finalist, 2020.
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 promises them everything.