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 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 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'm not certain I would have liked this book as a stand alone, but it was wonderful to learn about the author's mother. When I read Glass Castles, I didn't understand how her parents could behave the way they did.
I would only recommend Half Broke Horses to my friends who have read Glass Castles.
I think the author's accent made all the difference, after all, it is about her grandmother.
It has a follow-up book, Glass Castles.
I loved everything about this book. The book is extremely well written. Great story and I love that it is based on the author's grandmother's actual life. I was sad that it had to end. Make certain that you listen to the very end because the author tells us about how she wrote the story. I really enjoyed that also.
I also listened to The Glass Castle. I thoroughly enjoyed both books.
A Must Read!
The reflection on a time and way of life that has all but been forgotten.
The story was somewhat interesting. But I found myself waiting for it to end so I could get to my next book, all-the while, hoping it would get better. One of the biggest problems was the narration. She sounded like a high school kid reading her report to her class, Boring! She made a book that could have had some potential into a frustrating listen. She should leave the narration to the pros and stick to writing.
Jeanette Walls narration. She became her grandmother during the course of the novel. I even found myself speaking in her rhythm a few times. She was no nonsense kind of gal and I've been accused of being the same. Struck a cord.
Lily's trek to AZ for her first teaching job at the age of 15.
Didn't have a favorite scene, but her comment about suicide being a selfish act has stuck with me.
No extreme reaction. I felt more empowered afterwards though. That gal had moxey.
Good read, uh, er, listen.
I'm not sure what a "true life novel" is but this was just bad. Is it a novel? Is it a biography? Regardless, the main character was so full of herself that I had to stop reading. I really tried. I wanted to like it. I almost made it to the end but just couldn't do it. Somewhere in the middle I thought she might redeem herself but nope, still completely full of herself.
one of the best! Kept me motivated to go running by wanting to know what was going to happen next. Fascinating
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