by Lara Prior-Palmer
At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer hurtles out from the starting line and across the Mongolian Steppe. In seven days, she would have travelled 1000 km. In seven days, she would have raced through driving rain, searing heat, illness and dehydration. In seven days, she did become the youngest person and the first woman to win the Mongol Derby.
Lara has no formal training, is poorly prepared and becomes a point of amusement to her competitors. She is at the cusp of adulthood. It looms, leaving her adrift in her own mind and body. As the race progresses she adapts to the challenge, finding a sense of self as she explores the rushing heat of competition.
The ending is already known. It’s her journey, and her lone moments across the green expanse that make for marvelous reading.
Special care is taken to give glimpses of Mongolia’s fascinating culture and rich history, often hung among the curious interactions between herself and the local people she meets along the way.
Carrying everything along is Prior-Palmer’s extraordinary writing. It is fearless; sumptuous poetry disguised as prose. It glitters and roves across the hill-scapes, standing strongest as she rides her horse, Lion, into a better and ultimately deeper understanding of herself.
This heart pounding story rides the line between action adventure and spiritual meditation becoming a richly written memoir of self-discovery.
Reviewed by Kelsey Ward