I felt this story was about self-discovery. The main character, a young adult, is forced to take a long, hard look at her life and decide if what she's doing and where she's at is really what she wants out of her life. Like what happens to so many of us, it takes a complete change in environment to help her find what's really in her heart.
To me, the strength in Natalie's writing is in how well she knows her subject and how accurately she can impart it to the reader. Even if you didn't know Natalie, you could tell from reading this story that she really knows horses, when reading her descriptions of horse handling and riding you feel like you're right there with the character. You feel a kinship because she gets horses the way most of us get horses- deep in our guts, like they are a part of us. Take this excerpt for example:
"I had my forehead pressed against Saltpeter’s skull, the swirling patterns of his white and gray hairs a spiral between his dark eyes, and his forelock parted on either side of my head and tickled my ears, and I could feel his warm, moist breath on my hands, cupped beneath his chin and holding him gently, gently, so that he wouldn’t get claustrophobic, overwhelmed by human affection, and would just share that simple, silent moment with me. Horses only spoke when absolutely necessary, and wild horses would never speak at all; sound would give away their location, and horses only want to be known to their kin. A barn full of confident, foolish young horses was alive and rowdy with whinnies and neighs; a horse alone with a human was often quiet, protecting them both from the outside world."
Throughout the book it was obvious that Natalie was having a bit of fun with names. The protagonist's name is Alex, her boss and lover's name is Alexander. I'm sure there's some kind of symbolism in there about how Alex originally felt like a cog in the Alexander machine but I'm allergic to symbolism so I won't get into it. She also had an entertaining name for a lecherous old man who takes Alex out to dinner but you'll have to read it to find out. I don't want to give away any more of the book to you.
Overall, I was impressed by this debut novella; I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of her work in the future. You can pick up an electronic copy for Kindles here or you can get a pdf from here. Natalie's blog, Retired Racehorse, can be found on my blog roll.