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Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses

by Jeannette Walls

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,6692092,139 (3.98)1 / 212
  1. 11
    These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.) by Nancy E. Turner (Electablue)
  2. 11
    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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Memoir; Adult nonfiction
  NDReader | Feb 27, 2019 |
This is a fictionalized biography of Jeanette Walls' grandmother, Lily Casey Smith.

Lily's father was disabled. He fancied himself as a horse trader and since, he could no longer do it himself, he had Lily breaking colts when she was six years old as a way of supporting his family.

But Lily longed to go to school. When finally allowed a chance to attend, she enjoyed a Catholic boarding high school but her rough pioneer ways made her an unusual student who didn't fit in. When the money earmarked for her education was lost by her father in a get rich scheme, her teachers weren't sorry to see her go. Her father assumed she'd come back to the ranch, as he needed her to continue breaking horses for the family support.

But Lily had had enough and at sixteen years old set out to take a teaching job at a time when war made certified teachers scarce. Deprived of a way to get there, she rode her horse five hundred miles by herself.

Her career, her marriage, her ranch experiences, her realized ambition to pilot the thrilling, new-fangled airplanes, all illustrate an original, gun-toting, tough lady by-passing the conventions of the day.

We also see a bit of Jeanette 's mother, Rose Mary Walls', rather chaotic childhood and young adulthood. She is the subject of Jeanette Walls' memoir The Glass Castle, which I haven't yet read. ( )
  streamsong | Sep 24, 2018 |
Straightforward, entertaining account of politically incorrect, ever-controversial "Lily Casey, the mustang-breaking, poker-playing, horse-race-winning schoolmarm of Coconino County" (also rancher, pilot, etc.). "[H]ers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience" (Publishers Weekly). Recommended by Pam. ( )
  beaujoe | Aug 6, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Aug 2011):
- Without question Jeannette Walls' grandmother Lily Casey Smith lived an interesting, bygone life. Helping to geld horses, riding a roughshod pony hundreds of miles... That the author was compelled to share this history as a precedent to her own adventurous life is understandable. What limited my enjoyment of this work is the way in which it was told. I received the narrative as a straight recitation of Lily Casey's exploits, absent any nuance. In my view, this would have worked much better as a fully inventive, imaginative novel, in which the inner voice of Lily was heard. In ANY work of fiction, personality-based or not, you expect some divergence from static reality.
- I applaud her inspirations, just not the form. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Jun 28, 2018 |
This biographical novel has a wonderful narrative voice. Author, Jeannette Walls tells her grandmother's life story. I found it a fascinating account of a life lived both rough and tough, spanning the 1900's in Texas. Lily Casey Smith was born in a dirt house, the eldest of three siblings. Her father suffered a disability as a child, so by the age of 6 she was helping break horses. Her parents home schooled her and by the age of fifteen she leaves home to teach. This is a remarkable life story and demonstrates the grit of some of the past generations and their survival skills. ( )
1 vote HelenBaker | Apr 15, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 210 (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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Book description
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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