OVERRIDE

High as the Horses' Bridles

A Novel

Scott Cheshire

Henry Holt and Co.

An urgent, electric debut novel about inheritance, belief, and a father and son divided by a dangerous prophecy

It’s 1980 at a crowded amphitheater in Queens, New York and a nervous Josiah Laudermilk, age 12, is about to step to the stage while thousands of believers wait to hear him, the boy preaching prodigy, pour forth. Suddenly, as if a switch had been flipped, Josiah’s nerves shake away and his words come rushing out, his whole body fills to the brim with the certainty of a strange apocalyptic vision. But is it true prophecy or just a young believer’s imagination running wild? Decades later when Josiah (now Josie) is grown and has long since left the church, he returns to Queens to care for his father who, day by day, is losing his grip on reality. Barreling through the old neighborhood, memories of the past—of his childhood friend Issy, of his first love, of the mother he has yet to properly mourn—overwhelm him at every turn. When he arrives at his family’s old house, he’s completely unprepared for what he finds. How far back must one man journey to heal a broken bond between father and son?

In rhapsodic language steeped in the oral tradition of American evangelism, Scott Cheshire brings us under his spell. Remarkable in scale—moving from 1980 Queens, to sunny present-day California, to a tent revival in nineteenth century rural Kentucky—and shot-through with the power and danger of belief and the love that binds generations, High as the Horses’ Bridles is a bold, heartbreaking debut from a big new American voice.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Queens, New York, 1980

They sit.

Below a painted ceiling looming high overhead, they sit and they wait. The ceiling yawns, stretching like one vast wing warming oh so many eggs.

See the stars, the affixed points of light, the glowing striated mists of silvery cloud. See the night clouds lolling, drifting above their heads across an expanse of blue plaster sky. Like vapors released, dust climbs blue-gray and upward like prayers.

Now, see the ceiling stretch outward and above the seated people, this for all of one hundred feet, over and above the lettered rows A through

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REVIEWS

Praise for High as the Horses' Bridles

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2014

One of The Millions "Most Anticipated Books of 2014"

Time Out New York Critic’s Pick

One of New York Mag’s Vulture "7 Books You Need to Read this July"

MPR’s The Daily Circuit "Best Books to Read this Summer" Pick

"Daring and brilliant…Cheshire captures the anguish that has always driven people of faith — or no faith — toward the unbridled promise of a time when ‘there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.’ No matter what you believe, fiction writing that delivers us to a moment like that is something of a miracle."
—Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Cheshire’s debut novel triangulates between contemporary New York City and Southern California and nineteenth-century Kentucky in this vivid, visceral tale about a son schooled in the holy fire of old-time religion who must seek bold new bonds with his evangelical father, his departed mother, his ex-wife, and his own richly transformed inner life."
Elle

"It’s a powerful book, an unflinching examination of two centuries of American yearning and desire."
As recommended by Colum McCann in The New York Times Book Review

"Highbrow…Brilliant…A time-traveling, DeLillo-esque debut."
New York Magazine

"The truly great American Epic is possible, but rare and profoundly special. Scott Cheshire, with his astounding debut High as the Horses’ Bridles, joins that company, effortlessly delivering a beautiful and mysterious story that takes us from the stuffy churches of New York’s outer boroughs to California, and then — almost inexplicably, yet in a way that’s totally right — to Kentucky in the first years of the 19th century…[I]t is one of the finest novels you will read this year."
Flavorwire

"Impressive…human and honest, asking lofty questions while staying down on Earth."
The Brooklyn Rail

"Stick with this one — the book and, more important, the first-time novelist…He’s a more earthbound (if less assured) DeLillo, painting familiar subjects — a scrappy outer borough and a fraught father-son dynamic — in bold new colors."
Vulture

"Cheshire tackles life’s biggest issues through the person of Josiah, whose evangelistic heritage is finally revealed, in a narrative studded with gems of insight about the human condition. An impressively crafted literary first novel."
Booklist

"High As the Horses’ Bridles is a great new American epic, one that spans two hundred years, and takes us cross-country from the streets of New York City, to the beaches of Southern California, to the bluegrass hills of Old Kentucky. Cheshire tackles the biggest questions of all, God, love, and death, and he does it with such style and raw psychological insight. Nothing less than Dostoyevskian."
—Philipp Meyer

"From its opening tour de force to its equally extraordinary conclusion, Scott Cheshire’s debut is searing and fierce. His protagonist, Josiah Laudermilk, provides a rare bridge from our familiar everyday to the strange, rich territory of Evangelical Christianity -- and back again. Josiah’s – and Cheshire’s – brilliant evocations make the whole world new. This novel is truly memorable."
—Claire Messud

"So many things at once, High as the Horses' Bridles is the heartbreaking story of a family, of a marriage, of the undying affection between a father and his son, and the redemptive power of love. It also happens to be a deep look at one of the more unsettling aspects of our national character--religion as desire. This is a rare and beautiful debut that will have readers thinking of Aleksandar Hemon, of E.L Doctorow, of Don DeLillo."
—Colum McCann

"Scott Cheshire has made the insane choice to write with nuance and intelligence about religion. High As The Horses' Bridles refuses to dismiss or lampoon the kind of people who are usually just fodder for comedy. Because of this, his debut novel is tender and enlightening, riveting and raw. The man can write but, just as importantly, he keeps his eye on the humane just as surely as the divine."
—Victor LaValle

"The prophets of High as the Horses’ Bridles live struggling in anticipation of the Apocalypse they think they want and struggling in denial of the one they already have. In a three-book bible, written to profound and devastating purpose, Scott Cheshire counts the cost in love of inviting the end of the world." 
—Chris Adrian

"In High as the Horses' Bridles, Scott Cheshire explores with poignancy the lasting generational impact of both faith and fanaticism."  
—Saïd Sayrafiezadeh

"High as Horses' Bridles is a book of revelation, in every sense suffused with biblical allusion. It reveals the hidden histories that shape our lives."
—Peter Manseau

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Scott Cheshire

  • Scott Cheshire earned his MFA from Hunter College. He is the interview editor at the Tottenville Review and teaches writing at the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. His work has been published in Slice, AGNI, Guernica and the Picador anthology The Book of Men. He lives in New York City.
  • Scott Cheshire Beowulf Sheehan
    Scott Cheshire
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Available Formats and Book Details

High as the Horses' Bridles

A Novel

Scott Cheshire

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Henry Holt and Co.

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