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Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by…

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel (edition 2010)

by Jeannette Walls (Author)

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4,7272352,411 (3.96)1 / 230
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)
Title:Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel
Authors:Jeannette Walls (Author)
Info:Scribner (2010), Edition: Reprint, 272 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

  1. 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.
  2. 11
    These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner (Electablue)

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 Westerns by Women: Half Broke Horses1 unread / 1brickhorse, May 2010

» See also 230 mentions

English (236)  Spanish (1)  All languages (237)
Showing 1-5 of 236 (next | show all)
First, I must say, the print in this edition (the red book) is so tiny I'd recommend an alternate edition. This is described as a "true-life novel" as the author tells the story of her grandmother and her mother ending with herself in a first-person voice. It's an interesting story of a pure western woman working and living on a ranch. She's an early feminist who lead a rugged lifestyle which she passed on to her daughter which may explain why her daughter grew up to be the person she was. I recommend reading this before "The Glass Castle" which follows chronologically from here. I also like this better than the latter. A fun and sometimes series look at a way of life that was ending as the grandmother lived out her life. ( )
  Nikki_in_Niagara | Jun 15, 2024 |
Half Broke Horses is an easy-to-read, fun adventure of Lily Casey Smith and her family, Big Jim (husband), Rosemary, and Little Jim, from Lily's perspective as a ranchhand/manager and teacher in Arizona before WW2.

Half Broke Horses is a quick-paced rendition of some fun, funny, unfortunate, and sad tales that Lily and her family experience in the desert.

What I appreciate most about this is how the author, Lily Casey Smith's granddaughter, Jeannette Walls' lets Lily come through the pages in her voice, in her stories, and in her ways. There is no overt covering up, sugar-coating, or PC-ing the terminology or events. This was Lily's story, told in Lily's voice, in Lily's time. Something that we all need to keep in mind when reading books written from different eras - their version of what is proper is not necessarily ours, but doesn't make them necessarily wrong.

A very well-done book. ( )
  LyndaWolters1 | Apr 3, 2024 |
A ?memoir? of the writer?s mother. Incredible story.
  bentstoker | Jan 26, 2024 |
I remember reading years back Jeannette Walls' first book, her memoir, GLASS CASTLE, and enjoying it greatly. It was a huge bestseller, and, I think, a movie too. HALF BROKE HORSES is neither a memoir nor a biography. Instead it's a novel based on the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, born at the turn of the last century, who grew up wild on western ranches in Texas and Arizona, where her father, half crippled, and with a speech impediment, carved a life out of training carriage horses. Lily loved horses, but she also loved learning, and got a teaching certificate at a young age and taught in tiny one-room schools, often clashing with administrators and moving on. Her story continues through the Great Depression and prohibition years. After one ill-fated early marriage (he was already married, with kids) in Chicago, in Arizona she marries a man twenty years older, has a couple of kids, goes back to college, helps her husband run a business, then a ranch, sells a little hooch on the side to make ends meet (and carries a gun), teaches some more, learns to drive - and to fly - moves to the city, then back to the country. Sends her kids off to boarding school. Watches her kids grow up and marry. I mean this is a woman's whole LIFE, and there's a LOT going on here. Remember I said I loved Walls' first book? Well ditto this one. Jeannette Walls is one helluva story teller. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Jan 13, 2024 |
This book is exactly what it promised to be: a fictionalized memoir, based on the author's oral family history. It follows the author's grandmother's life story, which was a somewhat adventurous one. The story, like all good family histories, has the unmistakable elements of the tall tale (or as my own dad puts it, "telling lies") where the truth has been either stretched or embroidered to fill in the gaps or make boring stuff more interesting, or to interpret events as Fate/God's Will.

The problem for me was that, at the 50% mark (~4 hours of listening), this story wasn't all that interesting, even with all the stretching and embroidering. I could have finished, barely paying attention as I listened while doing housework, etc., but life is just too short and I've got 45 other audiobooks on my acquired-TBR shelf to listen to.

So, DNF at 50%. YMMV.

This audiobook was borrowed from my local public library. It was read by the author, whose obviously amateur performance was still pretty good, and gave the narrative the ring of authenticity. ( )
  Doodlebug34 | Jan 1, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 236 (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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

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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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