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The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America

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The incredible true story of a woman who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Eighty-Dollar Champion . In 1954, Annie Wilkins, a sixty-three-year-old farmer from Maine, embarked on an impossible jo The incredible true story of a woman who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Eighty-Dollar Champion . In 1954, Annie Wilkins, a sixty-three-year-old farmer from Maine, embarked on an impossible journey. She had no relatives left, she'd lost her family farm to back taxes, and her doctor had just given her two years to live--but only if she lived restfully. He offered her a spot in the county's charity home. Instead, she decided she wanted to see the Pacific Ocean just once before she died. She bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men's dungarees, loaded up her horse, and headed out from Maine in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. She had no map, no GPS, no phone. But she had her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness. Between 1954 and 1956, Annie, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, journeyed more than 4,000 miles, through America's big cities and small towns, meeting ordinary people and celebrities--from Andrew Wyeth (who sketched Tarzan) to Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx. She received many offers--a permanent home at a riding stable in New Jersey, a job at a gas station in rural Kentucky, even a marriage proposal from a Wyoming rancher who loved animals as much as she did. As Annie trudged through blizzards, forded rivers, climbed mountains, and clung to the narrow shoulder as cars whipped by her at terrifying speeds, she captured the imagination of an apprehensive Cold War America. At a time when small towns were being bypassed by Eisenhower's brand-new interstate highway system, and the reach and impact of television was just beginning to be understood, Annie and her four-footed companions inspired an outpouring of neighborliness in a rapidly changing world.


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The incredible true story of a woman who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Eighty-Dollar Champion . In 1954, Annie Wilkins, a sixty-three-year-old farmer from Maine, embarked on an impossible jo The incredible true story of a woman who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Eighty-Dollar Champion . In 1954, Annie Wilkins, a sixty-three-year-old farmer from Maine, embarked on an impossible journey. She had no relatives left, she'd lost her family farm to back taxes, and her doctor had just given her two years to live--but only if she lived restfully. He offered her a spot in the county's charity home. Instead, she decided she wanted to see the Pacific Ocean just once before she died. She bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men's dungarees, loaded up her horse, and headed out from Maine in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. She had no map, no GPS, no phone. But she had her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness. Between 1954 and 1956, Annie, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, journeyed more than 4,000 miles, through America's big cities and small towns, meeting ordinary people and celebrities--from Andrew Wyeth (who sketched Tarzan) to Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx. She received many offers--a permanent home at a riding stable in New Jersey, a job at a gas station in rural Kentucky, even a marriage proposal from a Wyoming rancher who loved animals as much as she did. As Annie trudged through blizzards, forded rivers, climbed mountains, and clung to the narrow shoulder as cars whipped by her at terrifying speeds, she captured the imagination of an apprehensive Cold War America. At a time when small towns were being bypassed by Eisenhower's brand-new interstate highway system, and the reach and impact of television was just beginning to be understood, Annie and her four-footed companions inspired an outpouring of neighborliness in a rapidly changing world.

30 review for The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America

  1. 4 out of 5

    MarilynW

    The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America by Elizabeth Letts This well written book shows us the why sixty-three-year-old Annie Wilkins decided she had no choice but to make the naïve decision to ride from her failing farm in Maine, to the state of California, in 1954. Annie had lost her family farm, was broke and her doctor said she was dying. She was too proud to go live in a charity home or with friends of her late family. So Annie The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America by Elizabeth Letts This well written book shows us the why sixty-three-year-old Annie Wilkins decided she had no choice but to make the naïve decision to ride from her failing farm in Maine, to the state of California, in 1954. Annie had lost her family farm, was broke and her doctor said she was dying. She was too proud to go live in a charity home or with friends of her late family. So Annie buys an aged Morgan horse, loads her belongings on her and her horse, Tarzan, and starts out for California, with her dog, Depeche Toi. Sadly, Annie has no idea what she is asking of herself and her animals. It's really only through the kindness of strangers, and her never give up attitude, that Annie makes it to California in 1956.  This story is full of the history of the places Annie has been and the places she travels through. We learn so much about our country as she makes her way across the United States. Annie met famous people along her route although she saw people as all the same so her only discomfort, when meeting people, was that she was dressed in dirty men's clothes, the garb of a tramp. Along the way, Annie gained fans and she would entertain individuals and groups with her stories of her past and her present.  Annie's entire life was one of hardship and barely hanging on. That describes her trip too because, despite real offers of places to live, she always took to the road again, going after that dream of touching the Pacific Ocean. Annie's grit and determination was inspiring but her stubbornness was also dangerous and the story was often difficult for me to read. The author does a great job of allowing us to travel with Annie and to allow us to be on her long and perilous trip.  Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley for this ARC.

  2. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    The last of the “saddle tramps”, sixty-three-year-old Mainer, Annie Wilkins, was in ill health, having been given only 2 years to live. She’s known only hard work and hardship her entire life, and is now completely broke after losing her family and farm. Her only option was to go into a care home. Instead, Annie buys a horse, Tarzan, who was destined for the feedlot, and sets out for California, with her dog, Depeche Toi. Seeing the Pacific was a lifelong dream. As she makes her way across the U The last of the “saddle tramps”, sixty-three-year-old Mainer, Annie Wilkins, was in ill health, having been given only 2 years to live. She’s known only hard work and hardship her entire life, and is now completely broke after losing her family and farm. Her only option was to go into a care home. Instead, Annie buys a horse, Tarzan, who was destined for the feedlot, and sets out for California, with her dog, Depeche Toi. Seeing the Pacific was a lifelong dream. As she makes her way across the U.S. we learn the hardships she endured, with weather and illness an ever-present challenge. One of my favorite things about the novel was the bits of trivia and Americana of the places she visited on her trek. The times were different and Annie became a celebrity with newspapers taking on her story and so she was a well-known figure as she approached a new town. She depended on the kindness of strangers, who welcomed her with open arms and gave her food, medical care, and a place to spend the night. They celebrated her birthdays and holidays and gave her a sense of belonging she had never known before. This is a story of a woman who had a very limited life, never knowing of the world beyond her tiny town in Maine. But she took a chance and lived a life much larger than any she could have imagined. She could be stubborn and took dangerous chances, but she lived her life on her own terms, and what a life she lived! Along the way, another horse was to join their entourage. Annie, her horses, and her sweet dog stole my heart. This was a buddy read with Marialyce, and we both thought the first half of the book was riveting but by the second half the story began to drag and we both started to skim. By its very nature a story like this will begin to sound repetitive: arrive in a city, a calamity strikes, she’s helped and housed by strangers, and we learn historical trivia of the area. Rinse and repeat. I would have liked it better if the book was organized by topic and not as a linear journey. Ultimately, this is an inspiring story. Both Annie and Tarzan were living on borrowed time, but they both ended up living a life more exciting than either could have imagined. This was a heartwarming story of all the human spirit can accomplish with determination and guts. * I received a digital ARC via NetGalley. All opinions are my own

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars By the time Annie gave any thought to leaving her quaintly scenic hometown of Minot, Maine in November 1954, she’d lived sixty-three years, most of them on her family’s farm. It was a relatively small community, a village settled in 1769 with a population of 750+ people four years before. It wasn’t the only place she’d ever lived, but it was where she’d spent most of her life. Despite the fact that she owned very little, had little money, she set her sites on travelling to Los Angeles, 4.5 Stars By the time Annie gave any thought to leaving her quaintly scenic hometown of Minot, Maine in November 1954, she’d lived sixty-three years, most of them on her family’s farm. It was a relatively small community, a village settled in 1769 with a population of 750+ people four years before. It wasn’t the only place she’d ever lived, but it was where she’d spent most of her life. Despite the fact that she owned very little, had little money, she set her sites on travelling to Los Angeles, California. The sun and the Pacific Ocean called her name, and according to her doctor she only had two years left in her life. At the time, there were highways, although nothing like today’s highways, but she was determined to find a way. She’d never driven a car, and couldn’t bear to leave her little dog Depeche Toi, gifted to her by her neighbors, so she decided to ride instead. Not on a train, but on a horse. In a more modern car in 2021, that would require 46 hours of driving. On a recently purchased brown gelding horse named Tarzan, with less direct roadways, it was quite a bit longer, and with more cars on the roads than she’d seen in her years in Minot. Leaving the land that her grandfather had bought seventy-nine years before with the $54.36 he paid her for the land and the ramshackle building she’d made her home, she walked away with some doubts, but also determination to make this one dream come true. On the fifth of November in 1954, she headed south, her heart beating almost in step with Tarzan’s hooves on the dirt road, and Depeche Toi’s smaller, faster footsteps adding to the rhythm of their journey. Leaving behind her home, friends, and the nickname Minot had bestowed upon her - Jackass Annie. Along the way, she made friends who offered her a place to lay her head at night, a place to sit and share a meal with someone, as well as water for Depeche Toi and Tarzan. She carried their kindness, as well as their stories, with her as she continued her journey, adding more stories of more people, their wisdom, their insights into places along the way, and even friends she should stop and stay with in her travels. As her journey came to the attention of a journalist, her journey became one that fascinated everyone. People would run out to greet her, cities would offer her a place to stay, she became a celebrity of sorts, and met a few people of note along her journey. She met a man named Andy and his wife Betsy in a tavern on her journey who asked if she was the woman riding her horse from Maine, and invited her to join them for dinner. The next morning when she went to get her horse, she found this man sketching Tarzan, Depeche Toi happily beside him. Later, she would find out just who he was, but in her rush, just looking to get on the road, it never occurred to her that this sketch could hold value for anyone but her. It wasn’t an easy journey, or a quick one, but her father’s words, ’Keep going and you’ll get there’ kept her from giving up. All along the way, people shared their hopes and dreams with her, and those people along with their hopes and dreams became a part of her journey, as well. Their generosity of spirit infused her journey with an internal strength, a belief in herself she’d never before had. She became a woman that the world was rooting for. She took routes that were most assuredly not the most direct, fastest or the easiest, but what a wonderfully inspiring journey it was. Published: 01 Jun 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine / Ballantine Books #TheRideofHerLife #NetGalley

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    Annie Wilkins was not a woman of the world. She lived her life quietly, working from dawn to dusk at her farm, but at age sixty-three, she made a decision that would impact her life and the lives of countless others. Annie decided to travel from her home in Maine cross country to California. This was a perilous journey for a woman her age, and traveling only with the layers of clothes on her back, her trusted horse, Tarzan, her dog, Depeche Toi, she embarked upon this journey, broke, without fam Annie Wilkins was not a woman of the world. She lived her life quietly, working from dawn to dusk at her farm, but at age sixty-three, she made a decision that would impact her life and the lives of countless others. Annie decided to travel from her home in Maine cross country to California. This was a perilous journey for a woman her age, and traveling only with the layers of clothes on her back, her trusted horse, Tarzan, her dog, Depeche Toi, she embarked upon this journey, broke, without family and with the fact that her doctor had given her only two more years of life. Leaving in mid-November, she set out not knowing what she was facing. She didn't even possess a map. Trusting to her own toughness and will, she was convinced she would be fine as she was sure there was still a spirit of friendliness and empathy from the American people. Indeed, in so many cases her belief turned out to be true, as Annie was met with so many accolades and stayed and was cared for in so many homes across the roads she traveled, becoming a celebrity. Traveling through weather conditions that chilled her to the bone, she wound up sick a number of times, but with that can do attitude she continued forward. What I loved most about this story was not only Annie's attitude but her love of her animal companions, (she did acquire an additional horse). They had a very special relationship as she and her four-legged travel companions made their trek through a country that was quickly becoming one propelled by the automobile and the advent of television. Annie's four-thousand-mile journey is surely an inspiration to the intrepid spirit of an American woman. Now for the bad news! The second half of the book turned tedious and overdone. While I enjoyed the extensive tour through America, the details were often overemphasized and turned an amazing first half of the story into boredom. The bottom line is that Annie was an amazing woman and her story deserved to be told, but the actual telling at the end left me anxious for the story to end. Jan and I were initially fascinated with this story sending us to the internet searching for some details but our fascination became downtrodden by the inclusion of so many details that seemed to overwhelm Annie's story. Color us both a tad disappointed. Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    In November 1954, Annie Wilkins, who was in her 60s, embarked on a solo journey – on horseback – from her hometown of Minot, Maine, to California. Her cross-country trip is the subject of “The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America,” by Elizabeth Letts, author of “The Eighty-Dollar Champion” and “The Perfect Horse.” Read the rest of my review in the Christian Science Monitor. In November 1954, Annie Wilkins, who was in her 60s, embarked on a solo journey – on horseback – from her hometown of Minot, Maine, to California. Her cross-country trip is the subject of “The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America,” by Elizabeth Letts, author of “The Eighty-Dollar Champion” and “The Perfect Horse.” Read the rest of my review in the Christian Science Monitor.

  6. 5 out of 5

    DeAnn

    4 journey of a lifetime stars This true story is quite remarkable. Annie Wilkins has just lost her farm in rural Maine and at age 63 she sets out for California which she has always heard is full of sunshine. She’s got minimal money, her dog, and a trusty horse. In 1954 there was no such thing as internet navigation, so she relies on gas station maps and word of mouth to navigate across the country. At about 10 miles per day, it takes her quite a while and as you might expect, it is more about the 4 journey of a lifetime stars This true story is quite remarkable. Annie Wilkins has just lost her farm in rural Maine and at age 63 she sets out for California which she has always heard is full of sunshine. She’s got minimal money, her dog, and a trusty horse. In 1954 there was no such thing as internet navigation, so she relies on gas station maps and word of mouth to navigate across the country. At about 10 miles per day, it takes her quite a while and as you might expect, it is more about the journey. The author delivers mini-history lessons about landmarks along the way, and I enjoyed those. It was also very interesting to see how many people welcomed Annie in along with stabling her horse along the way. She acquires a second horse to help carry the load and the quartet has quite a few adventures along the way – mountains to cross, flash flooding, road debris, and poison. I worried at several points if she and the horses would make it to California. She’s dressed in men’s clothing as it was unusual for a woman to travel alone in those days. She frequently was welcomed to spend the night at the local jail as was the custom at the time for the homeless and travelers. The media catches wind of her story and there are frequent parades and speeches in many small towns along the way. This one was meticulously researched, and I definitely enjoyed learning more about down-to-earth Annie Wilkins. This made for a great buddy read with Marilyn. Thank you to Random House/Ballantine and NetGalley for the copy of this one to read. This one is set to release on June 1, 2021.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Annie Wilkins is a strong female character. In the 20th century, she doesn’t fit the norm. She is divorced twice and doesn’t attend church. She is not devout or docile. She is funny and bold. At the age of sixty-three, she decides to leave Maine and travel across the country to California without any modern day conveniences. Given her health situation, she considers her doctor’s advice to live restfully. But how? After a lifetime of hard work, she doesn’t have any savings. Nothing or no one to fa Annie Wilkins is a strong female character. In the 20th century, she doesn’t fit the norm. She is divorced twice and doesn’t attend church. She is not devout or docile. She is funny and bold. At the age of sixty-three, she decides to leave Maine and travel across the country to California without any modern day conveniences. Given her health situation, she considers her doctor’s advice to live restfully. But how? After a lifetime of hard work, she doesn’t have any savings. Nothing or no one to fall on. Her choices are very limited. When she owes taxes on the farm and struggles to pay it, she decides to let go of the farm. Once she realizes that there is nothing to hold her back in Maine, she makes a decision to leave the state and fulfill her dream of seeing Pacific Ocean. She travels on a horse with a dog, and at some point she catches an attention of reporters and people start following her story. The story is presented in an engaging matter. It brings snippets from her childhood and how her family invested in lands in Maine at a time when golden years of Maine already passed and original settlers were already moving westward for fertile lands. But her family didn’t know that. How farm labor was being replaced by industrial labor. And even with a piece of land and strong ethics her American dream left her penniless. Also, in brief snippets, we get the background of what is going on in the US, such as the automobile industry exploding, and about the roads conditions as she makes her travels. It is both a sad story of a woman who worked very hard her whole life and was pretty much penniless and it is also very inspiring story of a woman who at such age is so brave and wanders into unknown. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tami

    I loved this book! It’s a wonderful non-fiction account of Annie Wilkins and her late-in-life adventure across the United States in the mid 1950’s. At age 63, Annie’s doctor had given her two years to live. She also had a farm that she was going to lose to back taxes and she had no money stashed away. One of her dreams was to see the Pacific Ocean, so she decided to buy a horse and pack up for an adventure from Maine to California. With her little dog, Depeche Toi and her horse Tarzan, they set of I loved this book! It’s a wonderful non-fiction account of Annie Wilkins and her late-in-life adventure across the United States in the mid 1950’s. At age 63, Annie’s doctor had given her two years to live. She also had a farm that she was going to lose to back taxes and she had no money stashed away. One of her dreams was to see the Pacific Ocean, so she decided to buy a horse and pack up for an adventure from Maine to California. With her little dog, Depeche Toi and her horse Tarzan, they set off West with no map. Annie figured people along the journey would help them find their way west. The trio were able to spend the night in barns and homes of strangers, who often fed them and recommended other places to stay on their journey ahead. By the time Annie got into Kentucky and Tennessee, she was given excellent advice about her horse and was also advised to get another to help carry the pack load. In Tennessee, Rex, a Tennessee Walker, was added to her group and from there they proceeded west. Interestingly enough, as the group continue on their journey, Annie begins to feel better, other than a case of bronchitis or two. This was a wonderful story of a woman taking advantage of the time she has left in life to fulfill a lifelong dream. It also is a portrait of the innocence of the 50’s and illustrates the many changes that have taken place in our country since that time. Every story I have read by Elizabeth Letts has been amazing and this is one of her best. I highly recommend to readers who love true stories about brave women. Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for allowing me to read an advance copy. I am happy to give my honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pam Jenoff

    The incredible true story of Anne, a 63 year old woman dying of cancer, who rode her horse across America in the 1950s because she wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. I love all of Letts' books The incredible true story of Anne, a 63 year old woman dying of cancer, who rode her horse across America in the 1950s because she wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. I love all of Letts' books

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie DeMoss

    This is a truly enjoyable journey that we take with an elderly woman, her dog, and her horse from Maine to California in the 1950s. Annie has lost her home but not her spirit as she packs up her few belongings, her dog, and her horse and hits the road to California, becoming a celebrity along the way. It seems to me that times were simpler then, as Annie could knock on doors of strangers routinely and find a place to stay, and sometimes medical care for herself and her animals. Along the way we This is a truly enjoyable journey that we take with an elderly woman, her dog, and her horse from Maine to California in the 1950s. Annie has lost her home but not her spirit as she packs up her few belongings, her dog, and her horse and hits the road to California, becoming a celebrity along the way. It seems to me that times were simpler then, as Annie could knock on doors of strangers routinely and find a place to stay, and sometimes medical care for herself and her animals. Along the way we learn the history of the many towns and cities she visited. This is a truly heartwarming story. It would make a great movie. I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My opinions are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition

    This was a true story about the cross country trip on horseback by 63 year old Annie Wilkins and her dog in the mid 1950's. I found it crazy and naive that she thought she could just ride a horse across the US without any real provisions like food and money, no plans to stay anywhere along the way, or what she would do to survive once she reached California. It was amazing how many people offered her a hot meal and shelter for her animals - I think the fact that she was an older woman, traveling a This was a true story about the cross country trip on horseback by 63 year old Annie Wilkins and her dog in the mid 1950's. I found it crazy and naive that she thought she could just ride a horse across the US without any real provisions like food and money, no plans to stay anywhere along the way, or what she would do to survive once she reached California. It was amazing how many people offered her a hot meal and shelter for her animals - I think the fact that she was an older woman, traveling alone in the 1950's, caused people to be more concerned about her well being than if she was a man knocking on their door at night, asking for a place to sleep. Annie met some famous people and became famous herself, once her story was published as a human interest in local newspapers. She got numerous job offers and even an offer of marriage. I was concerned about her pets, because she decided to make this cross country trek, seemingly without much forethought, and they had no choice but to follow her to follow her. However, I was impressed with the care she took of her animals. Her experience was extraordinary enough that veterinarians treated her animals free most of the time and it was heartwarming to see that they were all each other's life companions. The author has done extensive research and has painstakingly recorded a well written account in numerous footnotes and has included a huge bibliography.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    Annie Wilkins was 63 when she began her journey. She had been given 2-4 years to live. Despite the lack of a planned route, she pointed her horse south and left her farm behind. As Elizabeth Letts tells Annie's story, we also get a snapshot of our country in 1956. Along the way there were many clues to the new normal that was making itself known. Annie called herself the last Saddle Tramp. The era of highway travel was barreling in and travelling on horse was going to become increasingly difficu Annie Wilkins was 63 when she began her journey. She had been given 2-4 years to live. Despite the lack of a planned route, she pointed her horse south and left her farm behind. As Elizabeth Letts tells Annie's story, we also get a snapshot of our country in 1956. Along the way there were many clues to the new normal that was making itself known. Annie called herself the last Saddle Tramp. The era of highway travel was barreling in and travelling on horse was going to become increasingly difficult. When Annie packed for her trip she anticipate many nights out under the stars. In reality she found that the kindness of strangers to provide accommodations in jail cells, stables, fairgrounds, fancy hotels, and guest rooms. Often, her hosts would encourage her to stay with them indefinitely. I am sure she was often tempted to just hang up the saddle and stay put. She never gave in. Her courage and determination pulled her back into the saddle to go onto the next town. Readers will also find Annie's deep love and respect for her travelling companions to be an endearing facet of this story. I can just see them: Tarzan (the Morgan horse) and Rex (the Tennessee Walker) with Annie on one horse and her dog Depeche Toi perched on the other. I did not think a horse story could top The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation, but I do believe this new title from Elizabeth Letts is my new favorite. Thank you to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Celia

    This is an EXCELLENT book based on the true story of Annie Wilkins. She is a farmer in Maine. When she realizes that there is no future in farming in Maine, she buys a horse and sets off on a journey to CA. She, her horse, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, experience much. Starting in the fall of 1954, they finally arrive in Hollywood CA in the spring of 1956. Along the way, Annie sleeps outdoors, in jails and in the homes of strangers. One thing she definitely found: that the “American people s This is an EXCELLENT book based on the true story of Annie Wilkins. She is a farmer in Maine. When she realizes that there is no future in farming in Maine, she buys a horse and sets off on a journey to CA. She, her horse, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, experience much. Starting in the fall of 1954, they finally arrive in Hollywood CA in the spring of 1956. Along the way, Annie sleeps outdoors, in jails and in the homes of strangers. One thing she definitely found: that the “American people still welcome travelers as much as they did in pioneer days." Mesannie Wilkins kept copious notes and eventually wrote her own memoir, Last of the Saddle Tramps: One Woman's Seven Thousand Mile Equestrian Odyssey. I kept thinking it might be wonderful to read that book too. The copies ARE available but costly. The cheapest I found was 52.00 for a 215 page paperback (used). But my local library has a copy!! Look for a review of that book in the future. I am in my 70's. Reading about a 63 year old woman who had this much gumption was especially heart warming to me. The writing is excellent and the story is even better. Each chapter starts with a quote about travelling or travellers!! Check out my Kindle notes to see some of the best ones. 5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen R

    Annie Wilkins sets off on horseback for a year and a half long cross-country journey in 1954 with few dollars, no maps and little possessions. Annie decided it was time to leave her failing farm in Maine and begin this incredible adventure riding horseback from Maine to California as her dying wish was to see the Pacific Ocean. So much could go wrong and she was no spring chicken, (in her 60’s). Annie bought an unfamiliar horse, naming him Tarzan, loaded up some gear, familiarized her dog Depech Annie Wilkins sets off on horseback for a year and a half long cross-country journey in 1954 with few dollars, no maps and little possessions. Annie decided it was time to leave her failing farm in Maine and begin this incredible adventure riding horseback from Maine to California as her dying wish was to see the Pacific Ocean. So much could go wrong and she was no spring chicken, (in her 60’s). Annie bought an unfamiliar horse, naming him Tarzan, loaded up some gear, familiarized her dog Depeche Tol with a leash and headed west into unknown territory. The kindnesses and compassion of complete strangers providing meals, suggested paths forward and rest in homes and stables along the way were stunning. Her animals were amazing and so perceptive and caring both to Annie and to each other. This is an extraordinary true story, I felt that I was along for the ride and I am thankful that Annie Wilkins had the forethought to journal her experiences. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Martie Nees Record

    Genre: Nonfiction Publisher: Random House Pub. Date: June 1, 2021 If I was the author’s editor, I would have suggested a name change. The current title makes me think of a young woman running off on a motorcycle with her boyfriend rather than this heartwarming, true story, of an amazing 63-year-old woman, Annie Wilkins. In the 1950s, she crosses the country by horseback. Annie was bold, quirky, and made up of nothing but true grit. What makes her story even more fascinating is that Wilkins had live Genre: Nonfiction Publisher: Random House Pub. Date: June 1, 2021 If I was the author’s editor, I would have suggested a name change. The current title makes me think of a young woman running off on a motorcycle with her boyfriend rather than this heartwarming, true story, of an amazing 63-year-old woman, Annie Wilkins. In the 1950s, she crosses the country by horseback. Annie was bold, quirky, and made up of nothing but true grit. What makes her story even more fascinating is that Wilkins had lived in poverty on the family farm, with no electricity or running water and certainly not a television. Yet, through word of mouth, each state was keeping an eye out for her. Everyone loved the woman who started her journey in Maine without a map. She became a folklore living legend. She was even on Art Linkletter's popular TV show “People Are Funny.” Letts does a superb job in making nonfiction read like fiction. The tale is never dull. The tale is also nostalgic. Most chapters touch on the cultural history of mid-20th-century America and the postwar prosperity that transformed the U.S. You will read about; the hurrying to build interstate highways for the seven-million-dollar cars that were being produced, the brand new supermarkets that took over the General Stores, the brand new McDonalds restaurants, which forever changed how families eat when they travel. In addition, all of America fell in love with, “I Love Lucy” because owning a TV became the norm. Most importantly there is an emphasis on Americans helping strangers. Not sure if we could say that today. The book also relives the then mood of US political points such as Senator Joseph McCarthy and his hunt for communists in the US and Brown v. Board of Education with the beginnings of the civil rights movements. And, much more American history. Yes, Annie is endearing. On her tombstone, she asked it to read “The Last of The Saddle Tramps.” Have to love her wit. If you are not into history but you are a horse lover, this book will still be a great fit for you. There is much written about the bond between animal and human. But, for this reviewer what I enjoyed most was reading about America in those years. The book never read like a boring history book yet I did relearn much. I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. Find all my book reviews at: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list… https://books6259.wordpress.com/ https://www.barnesandnoble.com/review… https://www.facebook.com/martie.neesr… https://twitter.com/NeesRecord\ https://www.instagram.com/martie6947/ https://www.amazon.com/

  16. 5 out of 5

    Literary Redhead

    Intriguing and inspiring! A true story I’d not heard before but lapped up eagerly due to the author’s beautifully written narrative. At 63, Annie Wilkins was broke, ill and unable to manage her Maine farm any longer. She decided to chuck it all, and set off to see the Pacific Ocean, riding her horse named Tarzan while accompanied by her dog, Depeche Toi. It was 1954. I felt as if I were there, astride a horse by Annie’s side, experiencing her remarkable journey as it unspooled. Touched by the kin Intriguing and inspiring! A true story I’d not heard before but lapped up eagerly due to the author’s beautifully written narrative. At 63, Annie Wilkins was broke, ill and unable to manage her Maine farm any longer. She decided to chuck it all, and set off to see the Pacific Ocean, riding her horse named Tarzan while accompanied by her dog, Depeche Toi. It was 1954. I felt as if I were there, astride a horse by Annie’s side, experiencing her remarkable journey as it unspooled. Touched by the kindness of strangers all along the 4,000-mile, two-year trip, clopping on new highways, through streams and up mountains, in blizzards and scorching heat, through large cities and small, to fulfill a final wish. Not only is this Annie’s story, it is Midcentury America’s — fueled by a spirit bursting with life after surviving the Depression and two world wars. Both tales woven deftly together by author Elizabeth Letts. Brava! 5 of 5 Stars Pub Date 01 Jun 2021 #TheRideofHerLife #NetGalley Thanks to the author, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carmel Hanes

    A gift from a friend, this story chronicles the somewhat amazing journey of a single woman who rode a horse from Maine to California. One woman, one horse (although a second was eventually added), and one dog, determined to reach the Pacific Ocean after "Annie" was given the sad information she likely had limited time left to live. A true story, it shows how much our world has changed since this journey was undertaken. I assumed Annie would spend many nights in the elements, struggling to surviv A gift from a friend, this story chronicles the somewhat amazing journey of a single woman who rode a horse from Maine to California. One woman, one horse (although a second was eventually added), and one dog, determined to reach the Pacific Ocean after "Annie" was given the sad information she likely had limited time left to live. A true story, it shows how much our world has changed since this journey was undertaken. I assumed Annie would spend many nights in the elements, struggling to survive and likely miserable. In contrast, she spent very few nights this way, as the world set out to meet, greet, and treat her. She was provided with stables and corrals for her horses, a bed for herself, along with meals and warmth and companionship from families, law enforcement, and officials in the towns she passed through. She was asked to participate in parades, and became somewhat famous through newspaper articles informing the public of her progress. Her animals were as well treated as she was. As I read, impressed with her tenacity, I had to reflect on how little Annie's world resembled my own. I marveled at how safely she traveled, assisted by so many, believing this would not be what she would encounter trying to make such a journey today, which saddened me. She was a strong and strong-willed woman, but she lived in a time when we were not as afraid of our neighbors and strangers as we seem to be now. She defied many odds, including her doctor's prediction. This was not a "riveting" read, and was somewhat repetitive, but it offered a bit of history around this journey that kept me reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beth Cato

    I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Before this book, I'd never heard of Annie Wilkins and her incredible journey across America in the mi-1950s. What a story! What a woman! Annie was a stout woman in her early 60s, a long-time resident of Maine. With her family farm lost to back taxes and a doctor pronouncing her with a few years left to live, Annie resolved to fulfill a lifelong wish and dip her toes in the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. She couldn't I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Before this book, I'd never heard of Annie Wilkins and her incredible journey across America in the mi-1950s. What a story! What a woman! Annie was a stout woman in her early 60s, a long-time resident of Maine. With her family farm lost to back taxes and a doctor pronouncing her with a few years left to live, Annie resolved to fulfill a lifelong wish and dip her toes in the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. She couldn't drive, though. Instead, she bought a sturdy older horse named Tarzan, and with her little dog Depeche Toi, she set off for California. Thing is, Annie had no idea the immensity of her task. She didn't think places south of Maine really got that cold. She didn't know how to get to California either, really--just to go south and west. She wasn't stupid, though--that she had only a 6th grade education was a simple fact for women of her time. She worked her way cross-country, relying on the kindness of strangers and the whims of the weather. Her haphazard route took her past New York City and Philadelphia, through Memphis and Little Rock, up through Cheyenne and Boise. Yes, her route to Southern California took her far north, where the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierras took her by surprise. She has close scrapes all along the way--truly, this is an intense read. You can't help but love Annie and her tenacity, exasperating as her ignorance is at times. This book has incredible depth. You learn about Annie, a woman born in the 19th century who triumphs as the 'last of the saddle tramps.' You learn about America in the 1950s on a unique, intimate level, as a woman and her horse must navigate a world increasingly ruled by cars. You learn about the kindness of people in that period--which I don't feel would be evident these days, not at all. To me, this was a five-star book. The one shame in reading this as a galley is that it didn't yet include maps, though there were placeholders for them. Readers of the complete version will benefit from those illustrations.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Disclaimer: ARC via a giveaway on Librarything. Even today, a woman crossing America on a horse with just a dog for company would be a story. Jackass Annie - or Annie Wilkins to be more exact, did this in the 1950s. She wanted to see California before she died. Elizabeth Letts’ new installment in history of the horse world book (look, I just made that up. It isn’t an official series, but it should be because she is one of the authors who writes it) is about Annie Wilkins’s trip. It isn’t a biogr Disclaimer: ARC via a giveaway on Librarything. Even today, a woman crossing America on a horse with just a dog for company would be a story. Jackass Annie - or Annie Wilkins to be more exact, did this in the 1950s. She wanted to see California before she died. Elizabeth Letts’ new installment in history of the horse world book (look, I just made that up. It isn’t an official series, but it should be because she is one of the authors who writes it) is about Annie Wilkins’s trip. It isn’t a biography, more like a travel biography - a history of a trip. Letts does give the reader some backstory about Wilkins – her family’s history in Maine as well as what few personal details seem to be available. But the bulk of the book is about Wilkins’ journey across America with her horse (which becomes horses at a point) Tarzan and her dog Depeche Toi. And as much as she can, she gives the reader brief biographies of the animals as well. In part, Wilkins seems a product of her time. She was able to do what she did because of the time period. It is difficult to imagine people today being so welcoming to a stranger, even with news coverage. (I type this from the city where the roving robot got destroyed). Additionally, because of her race and sex, she had less to fear from the police. In fact, one of the most interesting facets of the book is the fact that police stations were used as overnight stops or rooms for people. It should also be noted that Letts does address the difference in traveling that whites and African Americans would face at that time. Wilkins’ travel wasn’t done as a form of protest or even a money-making grab, but simply because she wanted to and didn’t have many choices left to her after the loss of her land. It’s true that the trip did give her a degree of fame and that while she left with little money, she was helped along the way by strangers, some of whom have their own fascinating stories. In all honesty, this is not, perhaps, the most exciting book to read. You know the outcome before you even pick up. It is too Lets’ credit that her prose makes reading the story a pleasure. This is also true of how the chapters are designed, making the book easy to dip in and out of. There are people who are going to undoubtedly ask, why does the story merit a book. Here’s why. We live in a society that writes women off when they reach 50, at the very least. Letts’ book about a sixty plus year old woman taking herself across country is important because not only does it challenge us to be a kinder society, but also to realize that older people, in particular older women, still have much to offer.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    I TOTALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ALMOST EVERYONE!!! I am in awe of this book, Annie Wilkins, and even the time period. The early 1950s, when America was still unafraid to trust, loved an adventure, and wasn't glued to electronic devices! TV still wasn't as popular as it would get later in that decade. This was an adventure, as it says in the synopsis, of a 63-year-old woman, her horse (soon to be two horses), and her dog. When Annie finds out that she is losing her farm and perhaps her life she de I TOTALLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ALMOST EVERYONE!!! I am in awe of this book, Annie Wilkins, and even the time period. The early 1950s, when America was still unafraid to trust, loved an adventure, and wasn't glued to electronic devices! TV still wasn't as popular as it would get later in that decade. This was an adventure, as it says in the synopsis, of a 63-year-old woman, her horse (soon to be two horses), and her dog. When Annie finds out that she is losing her farm and perhaps her life she decided to see the coast. Now mind you, she lives in Maine -already on a coast right? Now she wants to see the West Coast before she dies. She takes what money she can make while sick, buys a horse packs up, and just--goes! No map, no GPS, nothing! The history I learned in her travels was, well words just can't describe what I felt. I learned things I never knew I needed to know! I was thrilled to find out that she even traveled through my home state and believe me I am going to be doing some research about that. If you like nearly lost causes, horses, American travel, American trivia, history, adventure, then you simply must read this book. I will say that it drags in some places and it does not have a happy ending for all concerned, but it is still well worth your time. *ARC supplied by the publisher, the author, and NetGalley. With my humble thanks for being able to read this early-I will be going to buy my own copy and will be reading more by this author.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    This is such a beautifully written and heartwarming true story of a spunky lady who, against all odds, rode a horse across America. Starting in Maine, her only wish was to see the Pacific Ocean, a wish she’d heard her mother make, but was sadly never able to attempt. Knowing she was about to lose her family farm and with nowhere to turn for help, Annie Wilkins places an ad in the paper for a sturdy horse. After seeing a few, she knew she’d met the perfect match in an older Morgan she named Tarzan This is such a beautifully written and heartwarming true story of a spunky lady who, against all odds, rode a horse across America. Starting in Maine, her only wish was to see the Pacific Ocean, a wish she’d heard her mother make, but was sadly never able to attempt. Knowing she was about to lose her family farm and with nowhere to turn for help, Annie Wilkins places an ad in the paper for a sturdy horse. After seeing a few, she knew she’d met the perfect match in an older Morgan she named Tarzan. Along with her spunky dog Depeche Toi, Annie hit the road. Along the way, Annie found the best in people most of the time. She realized well into her journey that she wasn’t traveling alone, there were many people closely following her travels with hopes of her success. With a beautiful glimpse into an Americana that once was, the author breathes life into the towns and people of 1950’s America. The places Annie would rest for the evening, be it someone’s home, the local jail, a barn, or sometimes just out in a field restored her faith in people and her country. I absolutely loved this book; each day was a new adventure for me and Annie. But in the back of my mind, I had to keep reminding myself of a sad fact: this trip wouldn’t be possible in today’s America. But try to block that out and enjoy the country as it once was, filled with mostly good people; people who wanted to see Annie succeed; people who still had love, patience, and trust in their hearts. Sincere thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine for an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date is June 1, 2021.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    It's a compelling story but doesn't take clear prose forms. Not enough to portray a sense of continuity. The maps did. But telling portions of her younger life piecemeal throughout? It was not a best way to tell the journey, IMHO. Chunky, distracting to the crux of travel method! Overall to me it was super sad. Certainly that was not a fate nor a task I would set any small young dog upon. It does an excellent job for context of the people /their mores, era habits, general acceptability of strange It's a compelling story but doesn't take clear prose forms. Not enough to portray a sense of continuity. The maps did. But telling portions of her younger life piecemeal throughout? It was not a best way to tell the journey, IMHO. Chunky, distracting to the crux of travel method! Overall to me it was super sad. Certainly that was not a fate nor a task I would set any small young dog upon. It does an excellent job for context of the people /their mores, era habits, general acceptability of strangers in the mid-1950's. I don't understand why she took such a Northern roundabout path. Publicity and marketing? She seemed to be more affected by the help attention? The entire second half was so repetitive and tedious that most readers will speed read it or skim. I did.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Caren

    I was so intrigued with this book, which is a true story. In 1954 (which caught my eye, as it is the year of my birth), Annie Wilkins (at age 63, so also a "woman of a certain age"), left her farm in Maine to ride a horse to California. Her mother had always wished to see the sunset in California, but have never made it there. Annie, who had had a health scare the previous year, yet had recovered to work her meager farm alone, raising cucumbers for a pickle factory, simply saw no real future in I was so intrigued with this book, which is a true story. In 1954 (which caught my eye, as it is the year of my birth), Annie Wilkins (at age 63, so also a "woman of a certain age"), left her farm in Maine to ride a horse to California. Her mother had always wished to see the sunset in California, but have never made it there. Annie, who had had a health scare the previous year, yet had recovered to work her meager farm alone, raising cucumbers for a pickle factory, simply saw no real future in her life as it was. What did she have to lose? She had no family to speak of, so she took her cucumber money, bought a horse, and set off. I was very interested to see what this country was like in the year of my birth. This year for the most part preceded the interstate highway system, so Annie was riding along a lot of smaller, two-lane roads. So many people helped her and took her in for a meal and a warm bed. She did have to do some camping out, but less often than you would think. Only near Memphis, TN was she accosted by some young men, but she was quickly rescued, and that was her only experience with people who may have meant her harm. Think of that! Annie was woefully out of shape and unprepared for such a journey, but the kindness of strangers often saved her. The journey took more than a year and the author takes the reader along, meeting the people Annie met and describing the places as they were then. It was a wonderfully engrossing journey and I loved every minute! [Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.]

  24. 4 out of 5

    Debi Hawkes

    "The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and their Last Chance Journey Across America." I was intrigued by the title and premise for this book and was delighted to receive a copy in exchange of my honest opinion. So intrigued, I have bern talking about it to everyone, even before finishing! Author Elizabeth Letts has once again provided a well researched, likeable, and simple story that kept me involved every hoof beat of the way. I recommend to all fans of Historical Fiction, animal lovers, and 1950 "The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and their Last Chance Journey Across America." I was intrigued by the title and premise for this book and was delighted to receive a copy in exchange of my honest opinion. So intrigued, I have bern talking about it to everyone, even before finishing! Author Elizabeth Letts has once again provided a well researched, likeable, and simple story that kept me involved every hoof beat of the way. I recommend to all fans of Historical Fiction, animal lovers, and 1950 era America. Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books/Random House for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kaytee Cobb

    May we all grow up to be Annie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Monnie

    If nothing else, I'll give the author unlimited kudos for research on what was going on in the mid-1950s at every location mentioned - it's nothing short of amazing. That it's an engrossing, well-documented story of a very brave - and very real - woman is a plus. The woman is Annie Wilkins, who - at age 63 - was facing an uncertain future with no income, no family and no place to live except a charity home because she'd just lost the family farm. Even worse, she was dying - or would within a coup If nothing else, I'll give the author unlimited kudos for research on what was going on in the mid-1950s at every location mentioned - it's nothing short of amazing. That it's an engrossing, well-documented story of a very brave - and very real - woman is a plus. The woman is Annie Wilkins, who - at age 63 - was facing an uncertain future with no income, no family and no place to live except a charity home because she'd just lost the family farm. Even worse, she was dying - or would within a couple of years, according to her doctor. Refusing to accept life in a group home or the inevitability of death so soon, she decided she had nothing to lose - and she wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. How to get there, though, posed another roadblock; money for a train or bus just wasn't a possibility. She did have enough cash to buy a somewhat used horse - which she named Tarzan - so she, the horse and her beloved pooch, Depeche Toi, set off on what would be an often arduous, always adventure-filled journey from her former home in Maine to California. "I go forth as a tramp of fate among strangers," she said at the outset. It's certainly no secret that she got there - she made local and national news many times along the way (even appearing on at the time big-time TV shows hosted by Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx). But as they say, the devil is in the details - and her experiences amid the sea-changes in the country, like burgeoning highway construction (imagine, if you will, riding a horse along a busy, truck-filled road) are often frightening. The real story, though, is how she was treated by the people she met; yes, she was a "celebrity" and, to a degree, a media darling - but she still needed places to stay and food to eat, and that depended largely on the kindness of strangers. Annie wrote letters by the dozen along the way and kept diaries, but most of these had disappeared by the time this book was written. Much of what's here came by way of the author's painstaking research and extensive travel; direct quotes, the author says, come from an earlier book (with permission from that author's estate, of course). It's that historical "filler" that's especially interesting to someone like me, who was a mid-teenager at the time Annie set off - meaning much of it brought back many memories of what was happening around me back then. If you love history - and a thoroughly interesting story of a woman's courage amid adversity - you'll love this book. Many thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me the opportunity to read and review a pre-release copy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    This is amazing, and the audio version all the more so. Full review will be up soon.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    This was probably a 4.5 for me. It was a truly fascinating true story of a woman who, in 1954, decided to ride a horse from Maine to California. In poor health, no home left, Annie Wilkins decided that she had nothing to lose. Quite a story!!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I really enjoyed this true story of Annie Wilkins who left her failing farm in Maine at the age of 63 to make her way across the country to California in 1955. With $35 in her pockets, a small dog and a sturdy horse, she layered on her warmest clothing and packed blankets, food and other survival gear onto her horse and started her slow journey into the unknown. She hadn’t planned out her route, and relied on local maps to plan each segment. She found kind people along the way who gave her a mea I really enjoyed this true story of Annie Wilkins who left her failing farm in Maine at the age of 63 to make her way across the country to California in 1955. With $35 in her pockets, a small dog and a sturdy horse, she layered on her warmest clothing and packed blankets, food and other survival gear onto her horse and started her slow journey into the unknown. She hadn’t planned out her route, and relied on local maps to plan each segment. She found kind people along the way who gave her a meal, a bed and a stable to house her animals. She actually didn’t have to sleep outdoors very often. She achieved notoriety as her journey progressed, and sold signed postcards along the way to replenish her cash. Her biggest challenge was initially her own weak health and a recurring cough which laid her up from time to time. In Tennessee she acquired a second larger horse, so that she could ride him and use the other horse to carry her gear. The book was well researched and filled with interesting anecdotes and historical background on the towns she passed through along the way. It was an interesting glimpse into an era and a ride that could never be repeated. As highways proliferated and, in many cases, bypassed towns altogether, a solo woman horseback rider would not have been able to connect with strangers and travel 5,000 miles with so much kindness and charity and goodwill bestowed upon her. Annie trusted the goodness of humanity, and fulfilled her dreams of seeing the country.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aura

    Delightful true story of Annie Wilkins, an older woman in the 1950's who embarks on a journey on horseback from Vermont to California. Annie is diagnosed with TB and knows her life is coming to an end. With little money but a big desire to wander, she crosses the wonderful expanse of the United States with her horse, a trusty dog and most importantly supported by the good will of strangers along the way. Elizabeth Letts tells us her lovely story with a lot of context and color. Enjoyed this one Delightful true story of Annie Wilkins, an older woman in the 1950's who embarks on a journey on horseback from Vermont to California. Annie is diagnosed with TB and knows her life is coming to an end. With little money but a big desire to wander, she crosses the wonderful expanse of the United States with her horse, a trusty dog and most importantly supported by the good will of strangers along the way. Elizabeth Letts tells us her lovely story with a lot of context and color. Enjoyed this one a lot.

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