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Half Broke Horses Audiobook

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel

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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

Jeannette Walls's memoir The Glass Castle was "nothing short of spectacular" (Entertainment Weekly). Now, in Half Broke Horses, she brings us the story of her grandmother, told in a first-person voice that is authentic, irresistible, and triumphant.

"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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1572 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Anne Lake Worth, FL, USA 01-24-10
    Anne Lake Worth, FL, USA 01-24-10 Member Since 2015
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    "Great!"

    I couldn't stop listening. Loved the story over a woman's whole interesting life. Also like that it was the mother of the crazy mom in Glass Castles. Liked hearing some of her childhood also.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 09-04-11
    Dr. Lake Oswego, OR, United States 09-04-11 Member Since 2017
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    "Very Engaging"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracie carpinteria, CA, USA 12-24-09
    Tracie carpinteria, CA, USA 12-24-09 Member Since 2003
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    "Inspired Work of Art"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Friendsville, PA, United States 10-19-09
    Carolyn Friendsville, PA, United States 10-19-09 Member Since 2015
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    "Explanation"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie Cassidy Waukegan, IL 08-16-17
    Bonnie Cassidy Waukegan, IL 08-16-17 Member Since 2016

    bluejay

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    "Fascinating read"

    I really enjoyed Lily's story and listened to it in the car on a road trip. I will definitely listen to it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Lee Walker 07-30-17
    Lee Walker 07-30-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Loved it!"

    So authentic. Wonderful story about beautiful, resilient soul! Made me think about my grandmother who grew up being farmed out to other families in the Smokeys, and my other grandmother who broke draft horses. So real!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-30-17
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    "Reminds me of my Grandmother, God Love Her!"

    What a beautifully written story of the history of the emerging West. The struggles and joys of that time were truly a miracle in surviving Our Country's evolving determination to push through obstacles.
    Good history lesson!🏇🏼

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce 06-17-17
    Bruce 06-17-17 Member Since 2009
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    "There's not much new but exciting."

    A story of times we know little about but people who resemble people today. Very interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    KM 06-08-17
    KM 06-08-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Jeannette Walls is a fabulous story teller"

    Though I liked The Glass Castle better, this was a great story. I know that some of the content was speculation which is why it is called a true-life novel, but be that as it may, a story about her ancestry and knowing all she does about her grandmother made me happy and sad at the same time. I wish now I had found out more about my grandmother's story as she came here from another country at a very young age. That would have been a fascinating story I am sure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Hudson 05-02-17
    Hudson 05-02-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Excellent! well worth it."

    I had the audio version read by the author. well worth it. The way the author brings out the character keeps you listening for more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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