Based on the true story of the life of Jeanette Walls’ grandmother, Half-broke Horses is the endearing tale of Lily Casey Smith, a woman born into poverty in the early 1900s frontier of west Texas. Intelligent, despite her spotted 8th grade education, Smith knows her purpose on earth is more than just breaking-in horses on her daddy’s farm and she sets off across the desert at age 15 to teach children in Arizona. Smith is scrappy and independent, clearly a woman before her time. In her early 20s when she learns that the traveling salesman she married actually already has a wife and kids, she puts her six-shooter revolver with the pearl handle in her purse and hits him with it, giving him a good “pistol-whippin’”.
Walls, the best-selling author of her own memoir The Glass Castle, tells her grandmother’s story in a matter-of-fact, no-nonsense way probably much in same way as her grandmother shared these stories with her. It can be shocking that Smith speaks of her best friend’s death in the same tone as she does of, say, playing a hand of poker, but it’s realistic a snapshot of the era. In her narration, Walls’ accent is a bit mottled a little southern, with hints of other dialects thrown in which can be distracting at times, but it also suits Smith, a girl from west Texas who had an Irish father with a speech impediment.
Smith does find true happiness with her second husband and eventually settles down (if you can call selling whiskey during Prohibition by hiding it under her baby’s crib “settling down”). But this heroine’s adventures racing horses, surviving flash floods and tornadoes, and playing poker will stick with you long after Walls has finished describing them. Colleen Oakley
"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls's no nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At 15, she left home to teach in a frontier town - riding 500 miles on her pony, 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 Jim, she 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. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit.
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. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix audiences everywhere.
©2009 Jeanette Walls; (P)2009 Simon & Schuster
"Lily Casey Smith is one astonishing woman...a half-broke horse herself who's clearly passed on her best traits to her granddaughter. Told in a natural, offhand voice that is utterly enthralling, this is essential reading for anyone who loves good fiction." (Library Journal)
I found this book to be ok, but in was disappointed because I loved the glass castle and this was rather slow and a bit dull.
This book was nicely written and kept my interest. The story of Ms. Walls' grandmother captured how difficult living conditions were making a living on a ranch out west in the earlier part of the century. I would recommend the book. The only criticism I have is that I think a more professional narrator would have done a better job. Rather than really getting immersed in the story, I felt as if someone was reading to me. But it was not terrible. I just think one of the other audible narrators would have done a better job.
I thought this was a great audiobook! I found Jeannette Walls' narration very strong. Her depiction in first person of her grandmother was fascinating. It's a great profile of a tough, incredibly innovative, goal-oriented woman who serves as an amazing role model, even for women today. By the way, I earlier read (not listened) to The Glass Castle. I found Half Broke Horses a terrific follow up.
Jeannette Walls has captured the voice of her grandmother through this excellent novelization of her family history. An inspiring story for men and women alike. Less horrific than her first book (Glass Castle) but equally as engaging. In fact, if you have not read The Glass Castle-- read this first.
This book gave some background that was very helpful in understanding Ms. Walls unconventional upbringing. (The Glass Castle) Ms. Walls mother had been very influenced by the hard scrabble life of the American west and her family's need to survive. It was not comfortable nor safe. In giving us the story of her grandparents, her own mother's life and choices became more understandable. Jeanette Walls certainly channeled her grandmother's grit to become a respected author. Good for her.
I looked forward to listening to this book but was sadly, disappointed. I found very little to like in the main character and for this reason had a difficult time finishing the story. With Jeannette Walls' next book, I'll save the credit and take it out of the library.
This is a period story that takes place at the turn of the century. I enjoy history so some of the descriptions of life during this time were appealing. Overall though the narrative is very average and a little over done. I kept waiting for something to happen but this is a pretty simple story about life. If your wanting to be enthralled don't buy this book.
This is the story of the plucky but wise country girl who always lands on top and outsmarts every adversary, every time.
Every. Single. Time.
There is absolutely no drama. None. To make this even more boring, the author is a dreadful narrator whose voice rises with every sentence and falls at every hard stop. When she called her "no good worthless first husband" a "crumb-bum" for something like the one-dozenth time, I turned it off.
I couldn't finish it.
I am part of a small lunch time book club with some friends from work. We all agreed that this book was a great read. We (well most of us) had read and enjoyed Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls' first book, and were delighted when another novel by her came out. Excellent read. This book is a "true life novel" about her grandmother Lilly Casey, born 1901. Jeannette writes it in 1st person and she also narrates the book which really gives it a personal feeling. There is an explanation at the end about why it's a true life novel and not a memoir but the adventures of Lilly Casey are based on stories from her family, specifically her mother Rosemary, and other family. We all loved it and highly recommend.
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