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.
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).
USA Today - Craig Wilson Half Broke Horses [is] the tale of yet another free-spirited wisecracking relative, her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Think a rifle-toting, horse-breaking Annie Oakley in a biplane.
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
...she has managed to make her second book almost as inviting as her first, even though its upright heroine is never as startling as Ms. Walls's parents were
The New York Times Book Review - Liesl Schillinger
Wilder's stories have acquired such mythic power…that it can be easy to forget how many American families shared similar histories, each with their own touchstones of calamity, endurance and hard-won reward. With convincing, unprettified narration, Walls weaves her own ancestor into this collective rough-and-tumble heritage.
...an elegant act of literary transubstantiation... a narrative as bold and self-assured as a cowboy's lasso skills.
Lily never gets far from hardscrabble drudgery in several states ... but hers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience.
Told in a natural, offhand voice that is utterly enthralling, this is essential reading for anyone who loves good fiction—or any work about the American West.
To the end Lily is one tough bird. Like her grandmother, Walls knows how to tell a story with love and grit.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Avid reader Half-broke Horses I read the entirety of the book, it was interesting enough to keep my attention and I'm not here to complain about the manner in which it was written, for all intents and purposes it was well written and very engaging, loved it up until the part... Read More
Rated of 5
by Suzanne And the winner is....... Jeannette Walls writes that she honestly has to call her story a novel. She writes about her grandmother's life in the first person, recalling her distinctive voice. After her family interviews she had to use her imagination to write the details of... Read More
Rated of 5
by Dene McIntosh Just Good Horse Sense Love the book the first time I read it and the second time, I made notes for my book club review. Also, have recommended it to many of my friends who report that they thoroughly enjoyed it. The book is full of life's lessons that can be applied... Read More
Rated of 5
by radodd What a ride! I haven't even finished this book yet, but I can write the review already. I've loved every page. This would actually make a great movie, in the "O Brother" genre. I've so much enjoyed her adventures on horseback and in the hearse. I... Read More
Rated of 5
by MJ Half Broke Horses I could not put this book down. It was an incredible story of a very tenacious, independent and goal oriented woman at a time when woman were expected to be submissive to a man's ambition only. I loved Lily's toughness when it came to drawing the... Read More
Rated of 5
by Roberta Liford Don't Hillbillies Have A Regional Accent? After the Glass Castle, her 2nd book was a disappointment (notice it has not maintained any position on the best seller lists as has the Glass Castle). Anyway, I stopped reading when the ladies from Brooklyn appeared. This segment was so ill... Read More
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.
S&H stands for Sperry & Hutchinson, the stamp distributor who began offering Green Stamps back in 1896. Developed for retailers to distribute as a bonus for patronizing their stores, the stamps were doled out based on the amount of your purchases. The more you bought, the more stamps you received. After pasting your accumulated stamps into the provided booklets, you could then browse the S&H catalog...
The Pulitzer Prizewinning author of All Over but the Shoutin continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mothers childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression, and the magnificent story of the man who raised her.
Funny, heartbreaking, and alive with a potpourri of eccentric and irresistible characters, Broken for You is a testament to the saving graces of surrogate families, and shows how far the tiniest repair jobs can go in righting the worlds wrongs.
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