A Horse Named Sorrow

A Horse Named Sorrow
by Trebor Healey
University of Wisconsin Press

Reviewed by Chuck Willman

Author and poet Trebor Healey is one of my favorite writers. His first novel, Through It Came Bright Colors, made me devour everything else he’s written—an amazing collection of poetry, Sweet Son of Pan, A Perfect Scar: And Other Stories, and one of his two new novels, A Horse Named Sorrow. (Note: Faun is the other new novel, from Lethe Press, 2012. I’m working on snagging a copy! Like an addict I am absolutely hooked—one of those “love at first sight” things.) In a nutshell, A Horse Named Sorrow is a beautiful, lustful, loving, magical tale of two young men who meet in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS crisis. Jimmy, a young drifter who has bicycled all the way from Buffalo, New York, to San Francisco to die (he’s infected with HIV and wants to die among his “tribe”), meets another young drifter named Seamus. They fall madly in love with a goofy, awkward tenderness that will make you reminisce, laugh, cry, and love them both. 

After a year, Jimmy dies (this happens early in the book, so I’m not giving anything away here). Before he dies, Jimmy makes Seamus promise that, after he’s cremated, Jimmy will “take him home” to Buffalo. 

The story is about Seamus faithfully using a map Jimmy used to chronicle his journey on a special bike named “Chief Joseph” (you’ll learn why)—to retrace Jimmy’s trek across country to San Francisco; along the way meeting a menagerie of characters and dealing with circumstances that change Seamus forever. 

What makes this such a special book is Healey’s crisp, sharp, and poignant prose. You’re often hurled into a whirlwind of emotion when you least expect it and actually learn something about yourself in the process. His writing reminds us that the journey is everything, and there is nothing more important or valuable than love. I didn’t want this story to end. And it’s the perfect gift for this time of year!      

Chuck Willman has had poetry, erotica, and essays published or forthcoming in a variety of anthologies, journals, and magazines. He is also the author of After (forthcoming from JMS Books). He lives in Las Vegas with his partner of twenty-four years.