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Horse Heaven

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Frisky profiles of four promising young thoroughbreds open Horse Heaven, a sprawling, blithely satirical novel about the high-stakes racing circuit; you can almost hear the announcer cry, ”And they’re off!” While tracing two years in these horses’ careers, Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres) trots out an enormous, fascinating stable of their human attendants — including jet-setting owners, Zen-preaching trainers, fraudulent breeders, daffy animal psychics — not to mention the surprise equine perspective of a good-humored gelding. A racing card would come in handy to keep track of the characters’ busy, loosely interconnected sagas, which range from a derby nomination to hay-rolling adultery. But Smiley’s wonderful, well, horse sense about human nature keeps this earthy comic epic on track. B+

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