Half Broke Horses

Half Broke Horses

by Jeannette Walls

Overview: Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle was "nothing short of spectacular" (Entertainment Weekly). Now she brings us the story of her grandmother told in a voice so authentic and compelling that the book is destined to become an instant classic. "Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls's magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard working, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town riding five hundred miles on her pony, all alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car ("I loved cars even more than I loved horses. They didn't need to be fed if they weren't working, and they didn't leave big piles of manure all over the place") and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette's memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle. Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn't fit the mold. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa or Beryl Markham's West with the Night. It will transfix readers everywhere. One of the New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of 2009.

Mary Ann Kavouras (08/08/14): I love books that take you to a place and time as well as give accounts of strong women. This book paints a very vivid picture of a strong woman's life in the Wild West. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend!
Rating: *****

Patti's Pages: This novel is based on the life of the author's grandmother but lacks the shock value of her memoir, The Glass Castle, and I think that's a good thing. After a scrappy childhood in Texas, 15-year-old Lily Casey heads off alone on a month-long trek on her horse Patches to Arizona for a teaching job. Her teaching gigs end when teaching opportunities are offered to returning WWI vets. Lily's next stop is Chicago, where she receives more than the formal education she was seeking. A friend's accidental death and Lily's brief marriage to a bigamist are innocence-blasting events that will shape her adulthood. And Chicago is not the last place that she leaves because the memories are too painful. This book, though, is not a tragedy. It's the story of an indomitable woman making her own way and then raising a family in the Wild West. She wins at poker and horseback contests and wins our hearts as we root for her at every juncture, even as she starts selling bootleg liquor to supplement her family's dwindling resources, hiding the goods from the revenuers under her baby's crib. Since this is not strictly a biography, and the protagonist died while the author was a child, it's impossible to know which parts of this book are fiction, but I have to believe that the main events really happened. It's a ride worth taking, especially if you've read The Glass Castle. This book provides some insight into the background of the author's mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, who is a difficult child, with a warped sense of livestock welfare.
Rating: ****

Lynn Aldis: This is Jeannette's second book, the 1st being her memoir The Glass Castle. Half Broke Horses is her grandmother's story, as she puts it a "true life novel". She initially set out to write about her mother, but while interviewing her she realized she had a good story in Lily Casey Smith. Set in the early 1900's you really get a feel for what life was like in the west. Jeanette has a way of really making you feel compassion towards her characters. I really enjoyed reading this, but it wasn't one of my favorites. It was a good quick read and I would recommend it. Jeanette has a way of really making you feel compassion towards her characters.
Rating: *****

Barbara Crout: This book is a biography of the author's grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, born in 1901 on the salt flats of west Texas. At age 6,she was caught in a flash-flood, rescuing her little brother and sister, spending the night holding them in a tree; at age 7, she contracted "yellow jack fever" that nearly killed her - and then, things started going bad! At age 11, she was breaking horses with her father, mucking out stalls and digging outhouses. This is a story of a tenacious and proud woman from a family that lived by "horse wisdom and horse sense". After years of struggle and many dreadful jobs, she put herself through college, married a loving man, raised a family including a daughter who was a head-strong as she and spent many years as a teacher in one-room schools in the middle of Nowhere, Arizona and surrounding territories. This book is pure inspiration!
Rating: *****

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