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 prequel to The Glass Castle didn't fail to satisfy me. Not only did I find it captivating, but I thought Ms. Walls did a great job at narrating her own book. I would highly recommend it.
Story was rather dull. Narration seemed rather flat. I think one of the reasons I loved her other book, Glass Castle so much, besides the wild story, was the great narrator. Julia Gibson brought the characters to life. I wish more authors would realize that with audio books, the narration is very important to the delivery of the story. Unfortunately, most authors are not the greatest narrators. Please have more narration by Julia Gibson, she adds so much to a story.
As other reviewers state...the author is not suited for narration. Dropped her voice at every pause or sentence ending. This got so annoying! I like the story OK, but it was clear that the main character was dubbed a 'character' in real life and throughout the story. A label which is tiresome and just plain irritating. There were also many repetitions such as "crumb-bum" and "from time to time". With a different narrator, I could have overlooked these repetitive phrases...but this narrator! argh..She also read so fast sometimes, the words were garbled together. Someone needs to tell some authors that it really takes a trained actor to get the story across in a pleasant way. Also please pronounce wolf correctly. It's not woof!
I loved The Glass Castle, by the way.
Tough, touching, funny & captivating. Keeps your attention from cover to cover. Narration is top notch!
Let me preface by saying that I have not read The Glass Castle - though I now plan to! I thought this was a fantastic look at early to mid 20th century life in the American West by a woman who was without a doubt hard as nails! I may not have always loved Lily Casey, but I certainly respected her for her grit and sheer determination. If nothing else, there is no denying the fact that she was always true to herself. I disagree with it being flat and boring - I thought Jeannette did a fantastic job of reading and capturing her grandmother's voice. I look forward to The Glass Castle and finding out how Lily's daughter's life turns out.
While I completly ejoyed The Glass Castle I have to say I was disappointed with Half Broke Horses. The story gave a good background for The Glass Castle but the narration just didn't work for me. The narration was too monotone and it sounded at times as if the narrator was bored with the story. Maybe that happens with authors narrate their own work; they are so familiar with the story that they can come off sounding flat.
As I listed to this book, as it was narrated by the author, Jennette Walls, I felt uneasy. Something was bothering me, but I could not put my finger on what it was. After it was over, it dawned on me: she had overlooked her previous book: The Glass Castle, which described her childhood in an extremely dysfunctional family.
Horses was about her mother's mother, an amazing woman, who was liberated before her time - but who did a poor job of raising her mother, whose life became a disaster.
I take this as metaphor for the Great Generation, who won WWII, but also initiated the final decline of America, because they became obsessed with illusions and unable to confront reality.
Utah Granny who loves to knit, golf, do genealogy, cook, garden, read and be with family. Yes, I am a Mormon and glad to be.
The story was interesting with a view of AZ, NM, through the early 20th century. An incorrect assumption was given that all Mormons live in polygamy. The group she referred to are fundamentalists and don't have anything to do with the 14,000,000 non polygamous Mormons around the world.
The narration by the author was a mistake. Her voice dropped on almost every sentence which was a tough listen. Her son was blatantly absent of any character building and all was focused on RoseMary her daughter. It was a nice tribute to her grandmother who was a tough and interesting character.
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