Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
A True-Life Novel

78%

18 Critic Reviews

Walls has written the book in the first person as if Lily herself were telling her own story...and as such it is expertly done. But any story told in the first person has serious limits, and not all of them have been overcome in this narrative.
-Globe and Mail

Synopsis

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. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

“Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls’s no-nonsense, resourceful, 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, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one who 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. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. 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. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.
 

About Jeannette Walls

See more books from this Author
Jeannette Walls was born in Phoenix, Arizona on April 21, 1960. She graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York City for twenty years. Her books include her memoir entitled,The Glass Castle and a fiction novel based on her grandmother entitled, Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel. Walls has also written for New York Magazine, Esquire and USA Today. She lives in Manhattan with ther husband, journalist John J. Taylor.
 
Published September 26, 2009 by Scribner. 292 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Business & Economics, Biographies & Memoirs, Westerns. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Half Broke Horses
All: 18 | Positive: 18 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on May 20 2010

Lily’s relationship with her equally headstrong but less practical daughter Rosemary...becomes increasingly prickly. To the end Lily is one tough bird. Like her grandmother, Walls knows how to tell a story with love and grit.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Liesl Schillinger on Oct 18 2009

Through the adventures of Lily Casey — mustang breaker, schoolteacher, ranch wife, bootlegger...bush pilot and mother of two — Walls revisits the adrenaline-­charged frontier background that gave her own mother a lifelong taste for vicissitude.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Oct 07 2009

Though “Half Broke Horses” fills Lily’s story with dramatic events, from the suicide of her sister to her betrayal by a “crumb bum” husband, this is a tamer, tidier book. And it has a less complicated soul.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 01 2009

Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice, a rodeo rider and fearless breaker of horses...but hers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Wisteria Leigh on Nov 11 2009

Half Broke Horses is an inspirational memoir and true life novel that will make you chuckle, weep, and simply savor like a warm cup of tea.

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Blog Critics

Good
on Nov 11 2009

Half Broke Horses is an inspirational memoir and true life novel that will make you chuckle, weep, and simply savor like a warm cup of tea. The greatest challenge in this book was not being able to put it down.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Cathy Puett Miller on Sep 07 2010

Walls’ telling of her story makes you want to live a life that someone will remember, that someone will find significant enough to write about.

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Book Reporter

Good
on Jan 22 2011

HALF BROKE HORSES is that rare thing --- an inspired look back that raises a real-life heroine back from the dead with style, wit and determination, and makes a spot for her in American history. A real ripping yarn!

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Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Paulette Jiles on Nov 06 2009

Walls has written the book in the first person as if Lily herself were telling her own story...and as such it is expertly done. But any story told in the first person has serious limits, and not all of them have been overcome in this narrative.

Read Full Review of Half Broke Horses: A True-Lif... | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

Entertainment Weekly

Good
on Oct 02 2009

And in an elegant act of literary transubstantiation, Walls gives first-person voice to a kinswoman born too soon to participate in today's memoir boom.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
on Oct 13 2009

“Half Broke Horses” reads instead like a lively oral history, filled with personal recollections and storytelling. The history is both dramatic and straightforward. The woman telling this story is even more so.

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The Seattle Times

Good
on Oct 09 2009

Whether any of this "true-life novel" is made up, well, readers won't care, for the facts of Lily's life are a formidable frame in which Walls has painted an admirable picture.

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Oregon Live

Good
on Oct 03 2009

...there's something refreshing about Walls's no-nonsense, action-adventure approach to getting the straight story told. The reader senses it is precisely this approach -- and only this approach -- that Lily would have tolerated.

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Denver Post

Above average
on Nov 01 2009

Jeannette Walls' real-life grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, is the inspiration behind "Half Broke Horses." Walls is long in telling the what of her remarkable grandmother's life but not so strong in illuminating the why.

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MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Above average
on Sep 18 2010

The book has a campfire feel...But nowhere does the reader get the sense of the inner life of Lily Casey Smith, a rebel-before-her-time, a tough American original in the old frontier.

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Book Buzz

Good
on Mar 06 2012

Walls tells the story in first person, relying on her mother’s memories of Lily...But it’s the first-person voice that I enjoyed so much — I felt as if I were riding along with Lily, exploring different towns and jobs and people.

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Story Circle Book Reviews

Good
on Dec 02 2010

Truth, fiction, or somewhere in between, Jeanette Walls spins a riveting story about an exceptional woman. From Lily's birth in 1901 when her dad had been out of prison only a year...right through her life, Lily never stepped back from an adventure.

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Kansas City Public Library

Good
on Feb 09 2011

Those of us who had read The Glass Castle felt that Walls was giving an explanation of sorts for her mother's odd behavior by telling Lily's story. However, The GlassCastle aside, the story of Lily Casey in Half-Broke Horses is a fascinating read.

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Reader Rating for Half Broke Horses
83%

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