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)
After listening to her first book, I had really looked forward to getting this one. I was very disappointed. It is disjointed and the author should have let someone else narrate the book. Would not recommend.
I loved this book and have recommended it to everyone. It is a must read/listen. I am glad I picked this one first and now listening to "The Glass Castle"
I was extremely disappointed in this book. I had read the Glass Castle and really enjoyed it so I was surprised that this one was so poorly written and narrated so badly. Boring!
The story was quite interesting a with all it's twists and turns and moved along well. I always enjoy a tale about the a struggling family back in time before the modern world evolved.
No, I don't think so. She got better as the story progressed (or I got used to her...not sure which). She sounded like she had taken each line of the book and had them written down in list form, and then she proceeded to read the list. I really think writers to a disservice to their work by narrating it themselves. Do what you do best.
I really appreciate the book being narrated by the author. I had read the glass castle and gave it my own voice in my head so hearing about Lily's life in 19th century America directly from the author really fit well. I think the story is fun and heartwarming written in a clear and fluid manner and I would recommend it to any listener who is in historical fiction or interesting novels with strong female leads.
Old, tired member of the sandwich generation. Waiting to just get to heaven!!
My daughter suggested this book to me and she has excellent taste!! This story is amazing. I enjoyed it immensely! The things she does to survive is amazing. Lily tries her hand at everything and succeeds at most things. I was sad when she let go of one of her dreams. Give this book a try, I don't think you will be disappointed!
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