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)
Having read THE GLASS CASTLE first...which was great ...I got lost in the family genealogy and felt confused until the end when it was reveled by Jeannette's birth. The rich details really took me to the West and I DID learn alot of history I had not known.
Just like her other book....this is a total pleasure and ends much too quickly. Her voice and style are so enjoyable I could listen to her all day. Wishing there were even more in this series but alas not. Her charm, delivery, stories, character, insight and honesty make this one of the best listens I've had in a long time. Sit back...listen....dream...and enjoy!
Just finished this book and really enjoyed it. I am often reluctant to buy a book read by the author, but Jeanette Walls did not try to put too much of herself into this. Great, strong character development without over dramatizing her. Nice.
I enjoyed Glass Castle a lot. I have tried two times to listen to this book and it has been painful both times. Sounds a if a sixth grader wrote it. The narration should have been left to a professional.
She has a nice clear writing style not too many details just the ones to give you the full picture and mood. It is interesting to know a little back story to some of the characters in the Glass Castle. She has a good reading voice. The protagonist is a refreshing female voice in the history of american west.
I am new to the audio book world. This was my first audio book. I chose this book because I love historical fiction and books based on true events. I read over many of the reviews on this book and decided this would be a great first "listen". I am just over halfway through this book and I am captivated. I can't stop listening. I'm sure I will have completed it before my girls are off the bus. The story is wonderful and the writer/narrator's way of telling the story is just as captivating. It is like I am right there in the story. I have found myself crying, gasping, even holding my breath as I listen to events unfold.
I'm so glad I took others advice and read this book before Glass Castle. It gave an important frame of reference that was helpful - and lent a believability factor to that book. This writer is gifted at sharing personal stories that make you want to know more.
A good read, but the author-reader just wasn't the kind of quality reader I've grown used to with Audible downloads. A professional reader would have made it a better experience.
It had some charming qualities and I guess it was well written. She was what I picture as a classic pioneer woman of the early to mid part of the last century. The book left me wondering why I had wasted my time though.
I thoroughly enjoy all books based on real life stories -- especially of the hardships of earlier America. I truly empathized with the main female character as I was a tomboy myself. The story draws you in and keeps you interested. True history is well entwined with a fascinating story. It was a nice different point of the view of the era than the usual non-fiction. The way a "cowboy" story should be.
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