Why Do Horses Run?

Cameron Stewart

Why Do Horses Run?
Allen & Unwin
30 April 2024

Why Do Horses Run?

Cameron Stewart

He walked not feeling he was connected to the earth, but on the edge of something he couldn't reach. He pushed on through mist and darkness and clutched the blanket tight under his neck with his bony fist. Nothing in the darkness could scare him. He was darkness itself.

Missing in every sense of the word, a man walks into the landscape and doesn't stop. In all weather and across all kinds of terrain, Ingvar walks until he can go no further, then gets up and does it again the following day, week after week, month after month. For three years he doesn't know why he keeps going, or whether he is walking towards something or away from it.

Until he comes to a remote tropical valley harbouring secrets and misfits. There a recently widowed woman, Hilda, allows Ingvar to live in a shed on her property. He hasn't spoken for three years and Hilda chats frequently with her dead husband, but somehow they tolerate each other as they both struggle with the haunting impact of their pasts and grief that won't let them go.

Steeped in mystery and foreboding, Why Do Horses Run? asks crucial questions about love and loss, and what might make a person never want to be found. Simple, profound, transformative and deeply moving, this indelible debut explores the propensity of the natural world to both heal and harm, as well as the ineradicable power of kindness and community.

Why Do Horses Run? depicts the darkest aspects of life with frankness, humour and lyrical brilliance. It is a novel that will stay with you.


Cameron Stewart asks many things in this novel, most pensively: what does it take to walk away from one life to another? He asks us to consider how grief and loss can separate people but also bring others together. While asking these questions, he draws the Australian environment around his characters, allowing it to become its own entity, its own being. In that way, the story is an ode to novels by Henry Lawson, Patrick White and Alexis Wright.

The story centres on Ingvar, a type of shadowy swagman walking through Australia until he rests at the foot of a hill on Hilda’s tropical property. Hilda, newly widowed, is righteous and grieving, but accepts him on to her property, allowing him respite from his travels and space to ruminate on his choices. She has little contact with other people but keeps up a steady dialogue with her dead husband. Further in town, Ingvar meets other residents, kind people, and his experiences with this community only heighten all that he has left. The Australian hinterland is ever-present with leeches and ferns, bird song and heat, wild pigs and ticks alongside long, winding roads and the generosity of strangers.

The bewitchingly slow and steady pace of this story allows us to consider the price we pay for love and absolution. It is a quiet novel, one that was surely created for you to consider your own expectations of resilience and despair. This unusual novel is Stewart’s first and is a disarming read. I have not encountered anything like it for a long time and it has stayed with me now for some time. It is for readers with time. Why Do Horses Run? is a novel that reminds you not to judge.

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