The BookBrowse Review

Published January 22, 2020

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

Half Broke
by Ginger Gaffney
4 Feb 2020
272 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN-13: 9781324003076
Genre: Biography/Memoir
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A top-ranked horse trainer's gorgeous, life-affirming memoir that offers profound insight into the fascinating ways both horses and humans seek relationships to survive.

At the start of this remarkable story of recovery, healing, and redemption, Ginger Gaffney answers a call to help retrain the troubled horses at an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico, a facility run entirely by the prisoners. The horses are scavenging through the dumpsters, kicking and running down the residents when they bring the trash out after meals. One horse is severely injured.

The horses and residents arrive at the ranch broken in one way or many: the horses are defensive and terrified, while the residents, some battling drug and alcohol addictions, are emotionally and physically shattered. With deep insight into how animals and humans communicate through posture, body language, and honesty of spirit, Gaffney walks us through her struggle to train the untrainable.

Gaffney peels away the layers of her own story―a solitary childhood, painful introversion, and a transformative connection with her first horse, a filly named Belle―and she, too, learns to trust people as much as she trusts horses. As her year-long odyssey builds toward a dramatic conclusion, the group experiences triumphs and failures, brave recoveries and relapses, as well as betrayals and moving stories of trust and belonging.

Resonant, smart, and beautifully written, Half Broke tears at the heart of what it takes to find wholeness after years of trauma and addiction and offers profound insight on how working with animals can satisfy our universal need for connection.

"Gaffney's story will delight horse lovers, and her anxieties as an introvert will broaden the appeal of this passionate memoir." - Publishers Weekly

"A heartening story of healing and interspecies connection." - Kirkus Reviews

"With exciting showdowns and poignant moments, Half Broke finds freedom in self-control." - Booklist

"Ginger Gaffney writes the intricacies of the equine-human relationship as well as I have ever seen it written…She knows a horse's mind as well as she knows her own. You will remember the tenacious and utterly winning people that populate Half Broke for a long, long time, and you will never forget the horses." - Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek

"Written with clarity and compassion, Half Broke is about the astounding power of horses to heal broken human beings. It shows a side of New Mexico that is seldom seen―the poverty and the struggle, but also the hopefulness and odd beauty of spirit within the people and the horses." - Leslie Marmon Silko, author of Ceremony

"Half Broke is a love song to the broken ones, be they human or beast, and all the ways they find to mend. Ginger Gaffney's prose is as clean and lovely as the land she describes, and this story is one that hinges on some of the deepest truths. Among them the fact that loving well is the best medicine, and though we may not recover in a way that preserves the person we were, such loss is not without mercy." - Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me

Ginger Gaffney is a top-ranked horse trainer. She received an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and her work has been published in Tin House and Utne Reader. She lives in Velarde, New Mexico.

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