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Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses (2009)

by Jeannette Walls

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2,9211711,971 (3.98)1 / 195
  1. 11
    These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.) by Nancy E. Turner (Electablue)
  2. 01
    Last of the Saddle Tramps by Mesannie Wilkins (SunnySD)
    SunnySD: If you enjoyed Jeannette Walls' tale of her grandmother's adventures, but wish it had been nonfiction, Wilkin's journey across country with her four-footed companions will be right up your alley.

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English (172)  Spanish (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 172 (next | show all)
Told in the fictionalized voice of Wall's grandmother, this "true life novel" tells of a strong, plucky girl who becomes a woman and leads a life of adventure, inner strength, power and freedom in the early 20th century American west, as it transitions from cattle country to civilized world. Through two world wars and from a land driven by horse power to industrialization, Wall's grandmother, Lily Casey, in a voice that is charming, informed, and spirited, seeks her Purpose in life, learning from her father, from horses and from nature what life is about, and how to life it fully. ( )
  sungene | Nov 25, 2015 |
Lily is such a snappy lady and Walls' narration of her is wonderful. This book runs the whole gamut of emtions in much the same way that life does. I absolutely loved Lily and would like to be more like her (in some ways, of course). Her determination and guts are wholly admirable and her story is a worthwhile read. It made me realize that I miss reading about horses.
I must admit I was excited to try out her trick from her first ride on Red Devil (turning the horse's head to the right when mounting) but my horse just spun in circles, being very confused and persnickety. ( )
  Jackie_Sassa | Nov 20, 2015 |
Just another Jeannette Walls masterpiece. It was a terrific book, easy to read and truly exceptional with the first person account. I enjoyed this book so much I really don't know what to say about it. It is a totally different story than her previous novel, but just as intriging none the less. ( )
  campingmomma | Aug 19, 2015 |
My grandparents all have interesting stories, from my maternal grandmother who grew up in West Virginia and told about how they brushed their teeth with salt instead of toothpaste and washed their hair in kerosene when they got lice, to my paternal grandfather who left Spain at age thirteen when the Spanish Civil War was heating up and swears he met Ernest Hemingway while waiting to board the ship to the States. Last year I discovered that my paternal grandmother's family have lived in the North Carolina mountains for three hundred years; there have to be some interesting stories there.

For years I've considered putting together these stories, either with the help of my dad and my sister or on my own, but I was always discouraged from proceeding with any of these in part because I felt bad picking one grandparent's story over another's, but more because it's never been clear to me which stories are factual and which are embellished to the point that they're more accurately described as fiction. And then there would be the difficulty of piecing together all of the disparate tales so the story read as a single work rather than a cobbling together of recollections.

In Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls surmounts all of these obstacles to create an interesting, readable story written in the voice of her inimitable grandmother. Lily Casey Smith was clearly a rough-around-the-edges woman, but I found her mostly likable and enjoyed reading her story. Aside from the interest I took in Walls' decision to couch her story as fiction and how that freed her as a storyteller, my favorite part about this book was the description of the setting. Lily Casey Smith doesn't romanticize the Southwest, but she clearly loves it and is a part of it. Seeing Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas through her eyes made my heart yearn for sparsely populated open spaces (if not for scorpions and lack of water). I was daydreaming about a western road trip before I started reading, and now that I'm done with the book, I really want to hit the road (watching the movie Crazy Heart this weekend also contributed---how I miss those wide, open skies!).

The only trouble I had with this book was that the stories sometimes didn't flow one into the next as smoothly as they might have, and especially towards the end, the narrative seemed to speed up and lack the lush detail it had earlier in the book. In a way, this reflects the way that time speeds up as our children get older, that uncanny way time has of rushing by each time we blink, but I still felt a little disappointed. I wanted more from that last third than what was there. At least I can follow it up with The Glass Castle.

( )
  ImperfectCJ | Jul 29, 2015 |
17 copies in ILL, including two at Carson. Only 4 actually available now on June 18, 2011. Popular, I guess!
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 172 (next | show all)
The pert style of “Half Broke Horses” is much more repetitive and grating than the more spontaneous-sounding voice Ms. Walls used to describe her own life.

But the author comes from a family that knew how to lure horses using grain, not rope. And she has inherited a version of that skill. So 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.
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It was the great north wind that made the Vikings.
—Old Norwegian saying
This book is dedicated
to all teachers,
and especially to

Rose Mary Walls,
Phyllis Owens, and
Esther Fuchs

And in memory of
Jeannette Bivens and
Lily Casey Smith
First words
Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.
I never met a kid I couldn't teach. Every kid was good at something, and the trick was to find out what it was, then use it to teach him everything else.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Publisher Comments:
Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle was nothing short of spectacular (Entertainment Weekly). Now she brings us the story of her grandmother — told in a voice so authentic and compelling that the book is destined to become an instant classic.

"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls's magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard working, 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, all 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, 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. 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. It will transfix readers everywhere.
Haiku summary
Hearse full of schoolkids?

It's just their bus, don't worry

No dead kids! It's safe.


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A true-life novel about Lily Casey Smith (the author's grandmother) who at age six helped her father break horses, at age fifteen left home to teach in a frontier town, and later as a wife and mother runs a vast ranch in Arizona where she survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy--but despite a life of hardscrabble drudgery still remains a woman of indomitable spirit.… (more)

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