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 fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town -- riding five hundred 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.
Half Broke Horses
Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.
It was late on an August afternoon, the air hot and heavy like it usually was in the rainy season. Earlier we'd seen some thunderheads near the Burnt Spring Hills, but they'd passed way up to the north. I'd mostly finished my chores for the day and was heading down to the pasture with my brother, Buster, and my sister, Helen, to bring the cows in for their milking. But when we got there, those girls were acting all bothered. Instead of milling around at the gate, like they usually did at milking time, they were standing stiff-legged and straight-tailed, twitching their heads around, listening.
Buster and Helen looked up at me, and without a word, I knelt down and pressed my ear to the hard-packed dirt. There was a rumbling, so faint and low that you felt it more than you heard it. Then I knew what the cows knew -- a flash flood was coming.
As I stood up, the cows bolted, heading for the southern fence line, ...
Simply put, this novel is a whole lot of fun. With a voice so clear and consistent, you happily find yourself giving in and reading with a cowpoke's twang. Even if you've never had an interest in the Old West and think it's for the birds, prepare to think again. Half Broke Horses is a laugh-out-loud lesson on learning to fall, a story about the human spirit, the courage of adventure, and the choices we make. Jeannette Walls is a true credit to the teachings of Lily Casey Smith: Half Broke Horses stands on sturdy legs of its own.
(Reviewed by Megan Shaffer).
Full Review (849 words).
S&H Green Stamps
Chances are if youre under 40 you might not remember S&H Green Stamps, but since Im one step over that hill, I clearly remember licking those sticky little stamps and dreaming of all the possibilities they held as I carefully pasted them onto the enticing matching rectangles. For those of you who can recall pressing those little postage stamp sized tokens into their respective booklets, youll know just what Lily Casey Smith was talking about when she used those very same stamps to purchase a few choice items to furnish her home.
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