Book Review: Half-Broke Horses

A True-Life Novel, by Jeannette Walls

Chalk up another bestseller from Jeannette Walls. Half-Broke Horses, although not exactly a prequel to Jeannette Walls’ best-selling book, The Glass House, does flesh out her family history dramatically.

Overview of Half-Broke Horses

Jeannette Walls’ Half-Broke Horses is not wholly a horse story. Instead, it is an intriguing account of the life of the author’s own grandmother, Lily Casey Smith (told in first-person narrative, from Lily’s point of view).

The story starts in a whirlwind and leads readers through one storm after another in the life of daring and undaunted Lily Casey Smith throughout the first half of the 20th Century in the American West.

Half-Broke Horses follows Lily through her childhood, youth and adult years, as she learns to break horses, dance, teach school, drive a car, run a cattle ranch and even fly an airplane. Lily lived through tornadoes and tragedies, floods and droughts, divorce and delight. She fought back against bigotry and biases, with her spirited determination.

Even as a child, Lily Casey Smith had a strong sense of herself and a fiery forcefulness that propelled her forward.

“’Life would be easier,’ Dad kept saying, ‘once we got our due. But we were only going to get it by fighting for it,’” writes Jeannette Walls, in Half-Broke Horses (p. 13).

The bulk of the story is factual, according to the author. However, because Jeannette Walls admits that she added details and dialogue, she labeled the fictionalized account a true-life novel, rather than a biography of her grandmother.

Jeannette Walls’ narrative, as her grandmother might have told it, even includes the author herself (as a child) and the hint that young Jeannette might grow up with a similar spirit to that within the indomitable and perhaps legendary Lily Casey Smith.

Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls, comes in clothbound and paperback volumes. (The book is also available in large-print, compact disc, Kindle, MP3, and e-book versions.) Tagged by the author as a true-life novel, Half-Broke Horses was listed as one of The New York Times Book Review’s “Top Books of 2009” and Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Nonfiction (2009). The book was also a New York Times best-seller.

Fiction lovers, (particularly American history buffs), both young and old, will likely enjoy Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls. This is no romantic rendering of the American pioneers or the women of the Wild West. Instead, this is a fresh and feisty recounting of the life of a gutsy and adventurous can-do individual, who found and forged her way in often difficult conditions.

About the Author: Jeannette Walls

Based in New York City, Jeannette Walls is a career journalist, an MSNBC contributor, and an author. Her additional published books include The Silver Star and Dish: How Gossip Became the News and the News Became Just Another Show.

Book cover/ promotional photos/fair use

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