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)
This is very much worth a listen. I recently finished "Glass Castle" and wanted more. Although not an immediate tie in with GC, this story seems to easily relate to GC since you know you are finding out about Wall's grandmother - and the prime influence on her mother. Helps to make sense out of GC if that is of interest to you. If not, it is still an interesting story of a tough and self-reliant woman making a go of it in the early 1900's in Arizona and New Mexico.
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've listened to all three of her books, this one by far was my favorite. I loved that it was written in first person it made for a heart warming and inspirational story. Very well written! Loved the story!
The story is great but the narration is awful. You need to get Will Patton to do your books!
I loved this story and the characters, and I think Jeannette Walls does a fantastic job performing her own writing.
When Lily decides to enter the political realm and storms into the governor's office, I laughed out loud. This woman is inspiring.
I listened to and read The Glass Castle, and loved that too.
The title is perfect as is.
Thought she was lying…..
I read The Glass Castle – Exhilarating
I was so fascinated with Rex Walls and what he would do next. He was truly a free spirit, rebel without a cause, but very intelligent. You might even say book sense without common sense. *Shrugs! So after reading the first book - I guess it’s the first (The Glass Castle ), I absolutely had to have more. So this one. As I began to read, I was like, this is a true story, right? Hmmm…. This is not matching up with the other. Everything is different. FRAUD (lol). As the story went on I noticed the story was about the grandmother and then merging into the mother – I was entranced and back on track.
I love the stories, the imagery was so0 vivid. My favorite imagery was the hearse with school bus painted on the side and underneath, Taxi! Hilarious.
Who gets fired all those times and doesn't learn the lesson. Comical.
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.
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