Going into Rough Magic already knowing the outcome didn’t affect the reading experience for me at all. In fact, it made it an even better book, as I spent most of my time reading it shaking my head in disbelief and wonder at the shenanigans Lara was able to get up to. Starting with her impulsive joining of the Mongol Derby (622 miles in 10 days on 25 different half-wild ponies), she pushes herself along, drawing on a wild restlessness that bypasses any sort of training or preparation that she should have had. Rough Magic is travelogue and memoir, with a harsh, fond look at her childhood and a bittersweet exploration of how to find oneself in the world.
May 2019 Indie Next List
“Lara Prior-Palmer’s journey in the Mongol Derby is one of excitement, pain, and profound inner dialogue. There was not a moment in this fast-paced memoir where my attention wavered. Prior-Palmer weaves a coming-of-age tale with expert grace and worldly knowledge alongside an intensely riveting competition against herself and the land. Rough Magic is a fantastically written and introspective memoir worthy of great praise.”
— Travis McGuire, Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, MO
At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to "the world's longest, toughest horse race"-an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her. Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe. Told with terrific suspense and style, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.