Cover Image: The Ride of Her Life

The Ride of Her Life

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Member Reviews

I love Elizabeth Letts books; you can always count on a winner when you pick one up. This was an AWESOME read. What a story, this was the first I had heard of Annie Wilkins, I had previously read Grandma Gatewood’s walk and I find it so amazing that you have two 60-year-old women in the 1950’s that decided to take their lives into their own hands and just take off. One went walking and the other got on the back of a horse. 
I am so glad Annie spent .60 cents on a notebook to use as her daily diary on the trail. And I so appreciate Elizabeth for researching and sharing this accomplishment with us. My best friend while growing up was my Palomino, his name was Dusty, after school I would come in the front door, change clothes and head down to the barn, we would ride every day. Some of the notations Annie said on how she would watch their mannerisms and know what they were thinking, she couldn’t have said I better. 
This book has it all, goodness, kindness, love for yourself, for your animals, and the strangers and acquaintances that you encounter during your travels. So many people made a difference by their time and kindness shown to Annie, I wish there was more of that goodness in the world now.
I want to thank Random House Press along with NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read an ARC. This one earns the highest 5 stars I can give.
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This is the best book I have read in many years. It makes one yearn for the kinder and more giving times of the 1950's. With only her perseverance, an ex-racehorse, her dog and $32, she set out from rural Maine to fulfill her wish of seeing the Pacific Ocean before she died. I grew up in New England, and was particularly interested in the stories the author told about the towns she traveled through. I am going to buy this book so others in my family can read. it. Thank you to the author for all the memories of an America long-gone.
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March is Women's History Month. My choice for 2021 recognition is the life of an ordinary woman who achieved an extraordinary thing.

I received an ARC of The Ride of Her Life, by award winning author, Elizabeth Letts and met Annie Wilkins. This is the true story of a plain and simple 63-year-old woman in poor health who was told she had less than 4 years to live.  Annie Wilkins was the last of her family and unable to work the farm. A kind doctor found her a place to stay at the County Home; a quiet place to wait out her fate. That option didn't sit well with the hard working, strong willed, and independent Annie.

Ignoring nay-sayers, a poor choice of seasons to start, dead-broke, poor health, inadequate clothing, few food supplies, and without a plan or a map, Annie set on November 5, 1954 from Minot, Maine to fulfill her father's dream to see California. Her mode of transportation was a retired trotting horse. She reasoned it was better to sit in a saddle and see the world than die of boredom in a rocking chair.

Annie had little formal education and little knowledge of life beyond her Maine farm. Yet she firmly believed in the kindness of strangers and her ability to achieve whatever she set her mind to doing. She did successfully cross into California, just as she started, in the dead-of-winter, on March 25, 1956.

The ride wasn't always sunshine and roses. She soon learned that automobiles now ruled the roads, saddle tramps were history, and the United States had wicked weather and elevation challenges. Annie also was relieved to find strangers who were kind and generous outnumbered those who were stinkers and hateful. She suffered injuries and near frostbite but nothing slowed her down for long.

After her journey, Annie fulfilled another ambition. Using her nickname, Mesannie, she submitted her memoir entitled The Last of the Saddle Tramps to a publisher. Editors polished the crusty edges off her character to suit the readers of the God-fearing era. They transformed Annie into "Doris Day", and the book was published in 1967.

In 2017, the author, Elizabeth Letts, began a lengthy and exhaustive search for facts about Annie, before, during and after her journey, that would culminate in her newest work, The Ride of Her life to be published in June of 2021. Where Annie's book is told from personal experience, Lett's new book is more a travelogue of the journey using what remains of Annie's journals, newspapers articles and personal interviews. The book is nicely annotated.

I found the book fascinating, Annie as stubborn as a mule, the towns and communities along the way generous and invested in her journey. And in the end, I know that dumb luck played a part in her success as well. This journey could not be accomplished today. Horse lovers, history buffs, and curious travelers will enjoy the read.
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True Story!
November 5, 1954 - Annie and her dog got on a horse and headed from Minot, Maine to California.
She had no map, GPS, cellphone, credit/debit card, not even a flashlight or rain coat.  She did not have a bank account, only $32 cash, her clothes, and few belongings.  

I so enjoyed this book/ride!!
The descriptions and the history were so interesting.  I will be researching and reading more of this!
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Letts has a way of bringing hidden history gems to life and The Ride of Her Life was an absolute joy to read.
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This book was a shining, hopeful travelogue story about a woman alone aspiring to travel from Maine on horseback with only her dog and her horses as traveling companions. Despite ill health and poverty her hopes are high. This is a book to restore your belief in the goodness of people and to relieve yourself from pandemic exhaustion.

Interspersed with the kind and generous people she meets along the way, we see America as it was in mid-50’s and learn historical and geographical facts about each place she’s been. In addition to the book being a nonfiction that reads like a novel, I love the endnotes. 

Read the book to learn if she and her guys (her male 4-legged companions) make it to California.
I read the advanced readers copy. Thanks LibraryThing and Net
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Having been told she has only two years left to live, Annie Wilkins decides she is going to do something she has always wanted to do: see the Pacific Ocean. With little money to her name, she purchases a horse, packs the essentials, and sets off with her dog. Through blizzards, storms, and cities, Annie travels from Maine to California.

This really was a fascinating read. I cannot imagine the courage it must have taken to set off alone to cross the country. Without even a map, or even a set route in mind, Annie relied on the neighborliness of those she met to get where she wanted to go.

The author expands on the details of Annie's journey with the facts of what was happening in the wider world. At times, these details do slow the narrative, but not painfully so. At the end, the author explains where her research expanded on the account Annie wrote and published of her journey.

I think my favorite part was the different people Annie met. With them all, no matter their status or influence, she treated them all the same. The kindness she was shown along her journey is something not seen often.

This is an interesting account of an adventure that you seldom hear about. I would recommend it to readers looking for a glimpse of American life in the 1950's.
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What does you do when you're in your 60's, you're broke, you're about to lose the little shack you call home and all you really have left is a dog.?  Well, you take your last pennies and save Tarzan, the horse, from slaughter. You saddle him up and the three of you hit the road.  The goal: ride from Maine to the California coast.  Back in Annie's day they called her "The last of the saddle tramps". These days they may call you a nomad and your steed may be a van or a Subaru.  However, a Subaru doesn't shy from traffic, escape during the night and it'll provide much better shelter during a downpour than the back of a horse.  .  
I can't imagine driving from Maine to California, much less riding.   Not only does Annie do this, she does this the long way....via Idaho and Oregon.. Annie loves her animals and their health and welfare is always her first priority.

Ms. Letts tells Annie's story beautifully and with humor.  Throughout the story of the long ride she has interspersed facts and history about the people and places that Annie encounters.   This flows in and out of the ride narrative very nicely.

I would recommend this book to Annie's fellow long riders and nomads.  Read and enjoy. #netgalley #TheRideOfHerLife
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I can’t imagine leaving my house on the East coast and traveling by horseback to California. That’s exactly what this books character did. With no real maps, hardly any money and just her horse and dog for company, Annie heads out. Along the way she meets so many people  who help her on her journey.
 This is a pretty informative descriptive  book and will make you feel like you’re on the trail with her. 
I enjoyed the story. 
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy
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I want to thank NetGalley and Random House - Ballantine for allowing me to read and review The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts.
“She was part of a team made up of three tails, fourteen legs and most important, four ♥️ hearts”.
“Jackass Annie”, as some referred to her, was determined to travel from her home in Minot, Maine to California. It was November 1954. Annie had been told she only had a couple of years to live. There was no family left and she was just about penniless.
This is a true story of survival and how total strangers were truly caring.
It’s easy to become emotionally involved. You laugh, you weep, and you desperately want her to succeed!
The Ride of Her Life publishes 06/01/2021.
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Even though I would have been about five when the Annie Willkins completed her ride, I don't remember hearing a thing about it,  This seems the kind of thing my father, especially, would have loved, so I am grateful to read about this now.

It takes a long, long time to cross the country on horseback, and the book wandered a bit, too.  Annie's ride was a challenge physically, financially, and lacked any continuity we've come to expect with our GPS options, and computer mapping abilities.  The fact that she set off, confident in the kindness of strangers - and finding it - speaks volumes about the tone of this book.  One can't help but wish for the neighborliness she encountered.

Though she encountered difficulties and some frights along the way, they are written in such a way as to not terrify the reader.  For the most part, this was a gentle meander of a book.
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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.
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"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, likeabke, and simple story that keot ne 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.
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“The Ride of Her Life”, what a great book! Following the story of Annie Wilkins, a great lady herself, who was given only a couple of years to live and responded by taking her horse, her dog, and her self on a cross-country ride from Maine to California in the 1950’s. This is a well-written true story that will capture both your interest and your heart as you travel with Annie on this sometimes perilous, sometimes refreshing, but always strenuous journey. She was sustained by the kindness of strangers and the support of the media and some notable figures of the time. Annie stepped out to accomplish what she set her mind to do in her own inimitable style. I would highly recommend this book to basically anyone who likes to read! Thank you to NetGalley for this advance read copy.
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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 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.

Pub Date: 01 Jun 2021

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine / Ballantine Books

#TheRideofHerLife #NetGalley
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In 1953, 63 year old Annie Wilkins decides, for various reasons, to travel alone from her home in Maine to far away California - by horseback.  This is her story, and it's a great one.  Meticulously researched by the author, Elizabeth Letts, this is not a book to race through - but it's an excellent look at a huge portion of America and Americans in the 50's.  Sit back and enjoy the ride and the look back at a gentler time in our country, and the fortitude of one strong woman.  Many thanks to NetGalley and  Random House/Ballantine for the e-arc.  If you have any interest in history, Americana, 1950's America, horses - I very much recommend this story!
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In 1954, sixty-three-year-old Maine farmer Annie Wilkins embarked on an impossible journey. She had no money and no family, she had just lost her farm, and her doctor had given her only two years to live. But Annie wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. She ignored her doctor’s advice to move into the county charity home. Instead, she bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men’s dungarees, and headed south in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. Annie had little idea what to expect beyond her rural crossroads; she didn’t even have a map. But she did have her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness.

Annie, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, rode straight into a world transformed by the rapid construction of modern highways. Between 1954 and 1956, they pushed through blizzards, forded rivers, climbed mountains, and clung to the narrow shoulder as cars whipped by them at terrifying speeds. Annie rode more than four thousand miles, through America’s big cities and small towns. Along the way, she met 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. In a decade when car ownership nearly tripled, when television’s influence was expanding fast, when homeowners began locking their doors, Annie and her four-footed companions inspired an outpouring of neighborliness in a rapidly changing world.

I was a big fan of a previous book by the author, The Perfect Horse. So I was thrilled to be invited to read this book also. Absolutely loved this book it captured my heart and imagination the entire way. If you’re a fan of roads less traveled, long for a simpler life you’ll enjoy this book also. 
I received this ARC for free in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you NetGalley, Elizabeth Letts and Ballantine Books
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This book was received as an ARC from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

I loved how positive this story was despite Annie hearing the news that she only had two years to live, that she decided to live her life to the fullest and take the Ultimate Adventure that turned into The Ride of Her Life. This book brought back so many memories like your grandmother telling you stories and you are a curious kid with your jaw wide open in amazement. Having read Finding Dorothy and being so fascinated with all of the enriched history in the book, I knew I was in for a treat when I read Ride of Her Life and I felt like I just got done eating my way through a dessert bar. All of the history and stories Annie went through riding her horse Tarzan and bringing her dog Depeche Toi brought a smile to my face as she found anything and everything to make herself happy before she dies and that brought a smile to my face. I know we will have a following with this book in our community and I can't wait to recommend it.

We will consider adding this title to our Historical Fiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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In 1954, 62-year-old Annie Wilkins, alone, and with and no family, home, land, or funds, decides to ride on horseback, along with her faithful dog, Depeche Toi, from remote Minot, Maine all the way to California (almost 5000 miles). It takes her 16 months, but, along the way, she becomes a celebrity in newspapers, and on local and national television, all the while personifying "gumption."
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Netgalley and Ballantine books gave me a wonderful gift in allowing me to preview this most amazing story of Annie Wilkins, the woman that rode a horse from Maine to California in 1955.  There are so many interesting facts in this book, that reading it one time, is hardly enough.  Elizabeth Letts definitely went above and beyond in her extensive research on this brave woman, and not only her travels, but what was going on in the country in every part of her journey.  Having never heard of Annie, I was intrigued by this story, and since it takes place in my lifetime, and brings forth my memories of what the country was like when I was a child, it was even more endearing to me.  It is a story of one woman's sheer determination to complete a dream.  And, in turn, it must be Ms. Letts' dream to write this book.  Although I read the ebook, I am going to buy the hard copy, as this is a book that I will read again, and refer to from time to time, when traveling across the country.  Don't miss this one!
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