I was familiar with Susan Richards’ first memoir, Chosen by a Horse, because I love horses and try to read any equine-related book I can find. Chosen by a Horse is about how Richards adopts an abused standardbred mare from the SPCA, and through her healing relationship with the horse, she comes to terms with her past that was - to put it lightly - highly unpleasant. Richards’ mother died from leukemia when she was a young girl, and her alcoholic father pretty much abandoned her and her older brother. She was tossed from one uncaring relative’s house to another as a young girl and always lacked a sense of belonging. She eventually became an alcoholic trapped in a bad marriage with a man she would later divorce.
Richards already owned several horses before she decided to adopt Lay Me Down from the SPCA, and she probably had no idea the horse would change her life in such a way and inspire her to write a book about the experience. Chosen by a Horse is an haunting book about the bond between humans and horses. It's a unique and unforgettable story about how horses can heal even the most wounded person's soul.
Chosen Forever continues Richards’ story. Much to her astonishment, Chosen by a Horse is not only published but becomes a New York Times bestseller. Richards isn't used to all of the adulation and attention. She has struggled for more than ten years to get published and was rejected many times by publishers. She had pretty much given up on being a writer, even though it was something she'd wanted to do her whole life.
As she embarks on a series of book tours to promote her new book, she rekindles old relationships with friends and relatives, some that she hasn’t see in more than 20 years. As she writes, "The tour was a reminder that when you're doing what your supposed to be doing in life, amazing things can happen."
The plot of Chosen Forever: A Memoir may not seem like something fans of Richards' first memoir may be interested in even though she has probably has a loyal following of readers. The main characters are people, not horses. But like her earlier work, which transcended the animal/human relationship genre, this book transcends most memoirs about human relationships. Although the writing isn't quite as visceral as in her first book, the story is anything but boring.
At her second book reading, Richards sees a man in the crowd and is instantly attracted to him. Because he’s with another woman, she falsely assumes he's with his wife. She points him out to her friend and says that if she were to ever date again, she'd want the man she dated to look just like him. Later, she finds out he’s actually not married to the woman he’s with; she’s just a friend. Richards is later introduced to him.
In her mid-fifties, Richards has pretty much given up on finding a man to share her life with. She has three adoring dogs and a cat to share her bed with. What more could she ask for? When she meets this handsome stranger, she learns he’s Dennis Stock, the famous photographer who photographed such Hollywood icons as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. In an eerie twist of fate, it turns out the two had actually met more than twenty years earlier. Richards purchased her beloved home in New York from Stock. Although he barely remembers meeting her years earlier, she remembers him as being arrogant and aloof - very different than the person he seems to be today.
To her astonishment, Stock makes it clear to Richards that he’s interested in getting to know her. He tells her she is beautiful, and they exchange contact information. She’s in a quandary. Her anxiety and past relationships tell her it’s not worth the risk to get to know him better. But so many good things happen in life when you take risks; things that propel you forward and allow you to grow. She decides to answer his email a few days later, and they make plans to meet.
Reading Richards’ prose makes you feel like you’re listening to a good friend tell you her story, if only that friend would tell you their deepest fears and triumphs. Her descriptions of her pets will make any animal lover smile. And for anyone who thinks they’re too old, too damaged or too afraid to take a risk and enter in a relationship with someone, this book is a breath of fresh air.