Cover Image: The Ride of Her Life

The Ride of Her Life

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In 1953 Annie was alone in life at 63 years old and not expected to live beyond another two years. She had a dream of seeing the pacific ocean. She had just lost her family farm and had no one that cared about her. She loved her dog and horse. She bought a horse no one wanted, packed up saddlebags and took her dog and horses across country to reach the pacific before she died. 
This telling of her story is one of American resilience,, of honoring ones dreams and of a woman's last dying wish.  What follows is her amazing story and a wonderful telling of our country and our people of that time. Annie was looked upon by many on her journey with disdain but she also was met with kindness by so many and it was through this kindness that  she continued in the worse of times. . Soon her story was told by many and when she made it to California two years later after many difficulties, she was a celebrity. 
 This is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. She was a remarkable brave woman and I was honored to read her story. She is a woman of our history to be admired. I loved reading her story  and will treasure the memory of Annie and her journey. 
Thank you to the author and to Net Galley. My review opinions are my own.
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This is a gem of a book about a woman in her 60s who has led a very difficult life and lives on a farm in Maine when she decides, having received a poor prognosis from a doctor, that she wants to see California before she dies. That in itself wouldn't be a story, but she decides to travel cross country via horseback. Now that's a story. The author intersperses the story of Annie with the changing landscape of America. Annie will leave you uplifted about the American spirit. Elizabeth Letts has done an excellent job researching America of the 1950s and the changing transportation, city and towns, and landscapes of this country.
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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.  The author has done extensive research and has painstakingly recorded a well written account in numerous footnotes and has included a huge bibliography.  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. 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.  She is funny and bold.  She decides to leave Maine and travel across the country to California without any modern-day conveniences.  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.  As the highways are taking away the travel that was once completed by horse and friendly communities it also a part of history as it is changing.  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.  My first book by this author and I enjoyed the story, the history and appreciate the research completed to produce this amazing read.  

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Ballantine Books, the author and NetGalley for a DRC.  #TheRideofHerLife #NetGalley
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A book that restores my faith in humanity! Annie Wilkins is in her 60s and given only a few years to live. What does she do? What any person facing the same situation. Buy a horse, take her dog and ride across the country from Maine to California! 

I felt the book was just as much about the people that helped Annie on her journey as it was about Annie herself. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this book
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What seemed to be a simple book about an older woman who rode a horse across the country is really a study in tenacity, hope, and the innate goodness of most Americans.  I followed along on this journey, meeting each person, exploring towns, enjoying the positives and enduring the negatives.  The Ride of Her Life made me consider the focus of my own life - and give thought to its true purpose and goals.
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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.
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Annie Wilkens was running out of money, options and time in rural Maine in 1954 when she decided to chase an unrealistic, desperate dream of going to California – on horseback. This book retraces the nearly unimaginable trek, made by a poor, naïve woman who was losing her farm and had been given two years to live. What Annie lacked in worldly knowledge or resources, she made up for is shear determination, hard work and the kindness of strangers.

Annie journeyed through a very different time in America when people helped strangers and an old woman riding horseback across the country became national news. I especially enjoyed reading about this era and the people she encountered, most of whom offered hospitality, kindness, support and advice to this odd foursome.

This is a heartwarming book about a truly remarkable journey. Author Elizabeth Letts does a wonderful job of introducing readers to Annie, her beloved little dog, her old Morgan horse and the Tennessee Walker she’s given on their travels. You can’t help but root for and worry about this foursome. Annie makes some brave, stubborn and dangerous decisions that kept me shaking my head and wondering what disaster would befall them next.

The first half of the book is rich with descriptions of Annie’s travels and details of the places and people she met along the way. Later in the book, as the foursome travels farther west, details of the people and places become somewhat sparser and the challenges feel more repetitive. Perhaps Annie simply had less help once she left more populated areas, but, in spots, it felt like the author was running out of information to share. 

Overall, it’s a charming read. You can’t help cheering for this tenacious older woman and her animal friends. While “The Eighty-Dollar Champion” remains my favorite of Letts’ books, it was a pleasure to read about this gutsy woman. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine for the chance to read and review.
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The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America
(This review is based on an Arc from Net galley)
Elizabeth Letts 

This is a wonderful story of determination, resilience and unwavering strength about Annie Wilkins who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean. 
Annie Wilkins who in 1950 lived a meager existence on a farm in Maine, decided she was going to go across America to California and settle there. The author takes the reader through her highs and lows, extreme weather, snow and heat. Treacherous terrain over mountain ranges. Annie is accompanied by her horse, Tarzan an aged Morgan horse and her best pal her dog Depeche Toi and starts out for California.
There were no detailed maps to help her plot her route. She relied on maps from gas stations and helpful locals she would encounter on her travels. 
Interest grew to see this lone figure with her horse and dog when she traversed their state. The media got wind of her expedition and this kept interest in what Annie was trying to achieve.
In the 1950’s America was very different to today’s society. People welcomed Annie into their homes offered stables for her horse/s food and shelter. She even slept in police stations when she could not find any local lodgings.
We learn so much about our country as she makes her way across the United States. I was intrigued by many of the places she stayed over learning interesting facts. Between 1954 and 1956, Annie, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, journeyed more than 4,000 miles,

I quote from the book “Annie’s journey had   been marked in inches on various maps, miles underfoot, people met, beds slept in, care and companionship with her animals, wrong turns taken, rain, dust, and snowstorms……….and astounding number of kindnesses.
After working all her life, Annie could now face the world at her leisure.
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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!! 

5 stars
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Read this book! This is an amazing story and the author tells it beautifully! I finished reading this book and immediately looked for other books by Letts. Perfect book to celebrate the greatness of women!
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This is the remarkable true story of Annie Wilkins and her amazing journey.  I really enjoyed this beautifully written novel.  Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Ride of Her Life is not just a horse lover book. It’s a great story about an aging woman living in poverty who had a dream and went for it despite the apparent impossibility of her quest -- to ride her horse from Maine to the Pacfic Ocean, with no resources or plan, trusting on her own resilience and the kindness of the people she would meet along the way. In these divided times, what struck me most about this story was the underrated heart of the American spirit -- not our personal independence, but our ability to love our neighbors -- even neighbors from other places. It also had some fascinating notes at the end of how the national media sanitized her story whereas local media was more honest.  Kris Kristofferson ‘s song sums the book up quite nicely: freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. This book shows the blessing in that.  I was really sad to see this book end.

As a side note, the research is absolutely amazing; the work that Ms. Letts did to understand and preserve Annie Wilkins' life story. Make sure to read the research notes at the end!
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The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts is the compelling story of a woman, her animals, a 5000 mile jaunt across the United States, and the people and places between.   Annie Wilkins left Maine on horseback in 1954, with the goal of reaching California.  Her journey takes her through small towns and across wide open spaces.  She encounters extreme weather and other hardships.  But her resilience and sometimes just good luck enables her to reach the Golden State in one piece.  
The tale is slow paced, much like plodding alongside Annie and her horses.  That's what gives the reader a chance to see America as it was in the 1950's.  That's what makes the setting so memorable and the characters come alive.  
We are not rushed.  We just experience the journey. 

The author has done a fine job of authentic research.  This story was big news at the time but probably not one that most of us have heard of.  The writing is well done, almost poetic at times.   I appreciate the efforts made by the author in compiling this narrative.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House publishing for the ARC of this fine book.
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The Ride of Her Life, by Elizabeth Letts, tells the true story of Annie Wilkins, who traveled across the country on horseback, leaving Maine in November of 1954.  She was accompanied by two horses and a small dog.  They were a team bound by love and protectiveness.  Annie was 63 years old, almost penniless, with no family, and was still suffering the effects of pneumonia.  She had lived all her life on a small family farm, without modern conveniences and with only rudimentary knowledge of the worId outside Maine.  It would be an understatement to say that she had no idea of the magnitude of her trip.  Nonetheless, she was exceptionally gifted in her resourcefulness, trust in herself, her companions, and her expectation that the people she would meet across the country were pretty much just as neighborly as the people she knew in Maine.  

Letts is an exceptional writer who brings Annie, and her companions, to life.  Meticulously researched and documented, Annie’s travels are given the context of a mid-century USA where roads led through towns and not rest stops, and where the journey was as important as the destination.  I enjoyed this book much more than I had anticipated.  Annie is unforgettable, and I highly recommend meeting her through this book.  Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the opportunity to read a digital ARC.
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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is an account of a woman in her sixties, who is pretty close to bankrupt and not in very good health, who decides to get a horse and ride it from her home in Maine to California. Note that she was not a regular or accomplished horsewoman - she had to go buy a horse for this adventure. She and her dog and the horse set out in mid-November 1954 for this ride.

Honestly, if there weren't plenty of references, I'd have difficulty believing that this is non-fiction! It seems like an unbelievably quirky choice for someone to make, but accept it.

It's an interesting look at one quirky woman and her horse and dog, as well as a second horse that she was given along the way. Even more, I also found the picture of 1950s America fascinating. People along the way were watching for her, providing her with food and lodging and stabling for the horse(s). Frequently, the police would meet her at the town limits and escort her to a pre-arranged lodging and places for the horses to stay. And, apparently, it was not terribly unusual for people in transit to be given a cot for the night at the police station!

While I was fascinating, I kept wondering what would have happened had she not become an almost instant celebrity? There were reporters who were fascinated by her story, and gave her a considerable amount of publicity. People, both ordinary people and celebrities, were giving her money and supplies and providing her with places to stay and for the horse - but what if she had just been doing this without all the publicity?

Fortunately, we didn't have to find out and I could simply enjoy this as a story of one woman's adventure and the culture of the 1950s. Well worth reading!
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I've always liked horses and dogs and I'm a sucker for a good book about them. I adored this book - the descriptions of the landscape and main character's journey to see the Pacific Ocean were fabulous. I wasn't aware of this story prior to the book and flew through it in two days.
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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, who in the 1950s crosses the country by horseback.  Annie was bold, quirky, and made up of 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. She became a folklore legend. She was even on Art Linkletter's popular TV show “People Are Funny.”  

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 produced, the brand new supermarkets, McDonald’s, which forever changed how families eat when they travel.  In addition, all of America fell in love with, “I Love Lucy.” The book also relived Senator Joseph McCarthy and his ridiculous hunt for communists in the US, and Brown v. Board of Education with the beginnings of the civil rights movements. And, much more.  Yes, Annie is endearing.  On her tombstone, she asked it to read “The Last of The Saddle Tramps.” Have to love her wit. Plus, it is a given if you are a horse lover this book will be a great fit for you. 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.
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Years ago I thoroughly enjoyed The Eighty Dollar Champion, and to this day I still recommend it as one of my favorite nonfiction narratives.  When I saw The Ride of Her Life, I was wondering if it would live up to my previous experience with the author, and I am happy to report that I was equally enchanted with this one.

  It goes without saying that the story itself is a remarkable one:  a sixty-something woman sets out to traverse the country on horseback from Maine to California accompanied only by a faithful dog.   However, what makes this book so special is, once again, Letts' phenomenal storytelling abilities.  Letts seamlessly interweaves the larger than life story of this incredible woman with observations regarding the different regional effects of the developing interstate highway system, and the  changing nature of society's attitudes toward the "stranger" due in part to suburbanization and the increased awareness of criminal activity as a result of the growing television market. 

Every night I looked forward to settling down with The Ride of Her Life and rejoining Annie on her journey.  Like the audience for an old time radio serial, I couldn't wait for the next installment.  The most poignant part of the book for me was the relationship between Annie and her animal companions.  Lett's descriptions bring the very distinctive personalities of the three animals (she picks up a second horse en route)  to life, and the strength of their bond infuses every page.  I know that the mental picture of the four travelers I have will stay with me for a long time. 

Near the end of her journey, with less than 200 miles to her Southern California destination, Annie faces a hardship that almost breaks her, but this indomitable woman eventually perseveres.  What an amazing story and such an uplifting read -- perfect for the times.
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Unfortunately, this book just didn't resonate with me.  At times, I would be engaged in the story, but then it would seem to be repetitive and I would lose interest again.  I felt like the storytelling was disjointed at times, with the writing that felt fictionalized as to how Annie felt or her emotions during her journey, and then it would transition to what felt like more non-fiction writing with descriptions or information that would only be available to someone in present day.  When reading, I couldn't decide if I was reading a fictionalized account or a non-fiction story and I think that is what caused the disconnect for me. Thank you for the opportunity to read this title.
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I loved this book.  Letts does a terrific job of letting the reader feel Annie’s experiences.  But what makes the book especially meaningful is the easy way Letts incorporates the social development of our country at the time Annie is partaking on her ‘fools errand’ adventure to ride her horse from Maine to California..  All of this takes .place in the mid-1950s as the United States is making its swift movement from rural to urban,  Annie is a woman I wish I had been able to mee.t. And m grateful to Elizabeth Letts for introducing me to her and showing me the America in which I grew up.
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