Half Broke Horses: awesome!

Half Broke Horses is another book I read on vacation. This is one my mom brought, not something I planned on reading. But there it was, so I picked it up, and man! It was soooooo good!

Half Broke Horses is Jeannette Walls’ biography of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith (1901–1968). Well, it’s sort of a biography. It’s subtitled “A True-life Novel” and it is told in the first person from Lily’s point of view. Can I just say, I am totally in favor of that. Who wouldn’t rather read a biography in novel form? Although, come to think of it, this book would not have been nearly as good if it was fiction. True grit is awesome. Made-up grit is nothing.

So. Lily Casey Smith was born in a dirt dugout in West Texas. She was breaking horses by the age of five. Think about that. My kids couldn’t even ride two-wheelers when they were five! In the course of her eventful life she ran cattle ranches, flew planes, raised kids, taught in one-room school houses, wore dentures, fought discrimination, loved, laughed, grieved. Indomitable is one of those over-used words, but it really does describe her. And all this, I might add, written in Jeannette Walls’ beautifully spare, clear-eyed, unsentimental prose.

There’s another dimension to this book, which is that Jeannette Walls is also the author of The Glass Castle, a memoir of growing up in dire poverty with kooky, neglectful but loving parents. If you’ve already read that, you’ll be even more fascinated to read Half Broke Horses. Lily, of course, is the mother of Jeannette’s own mother, who is quite a character herself.

This book was a great read. It totally sucked me in. I think I finished it the same day I started it. It oughta be on the 1,001 books list.

Leave a comment


  1. Thank YOU, thank you & thank you! Nothing better than a guaranteed good read, without hearing all the juicy plot details. Can’t wait to pick this one up.

  2. Expressmom, that comment could not have made me happier. One reason why I left the litblogosphere (yes I used to be a bookblogger) was because I was so sick and tired of “reviews” that simply recite the plot.

  3. You might appreciate this post I wrote a while ago:


  4. Ha! Yes! If only the rest of the world felt the same way!

  5. I love that book! I made my husband read it, too. I’ve been avoiding The Glass Castle in fear of a depressing read, but your description makes it sound like it might be palatable.

  6. Thanks for recommending this. I read The Glass Castle and couldn’t put it down. Adding this to my reading list!

  7. Kim, I can relate! I was afraid to read The Glass Castle too. The only reason I did was because my book club picked it. And it is depressing. It’s a good read, but it’s definitely depressing. And I would further say that although it’s a good read, it’s not a great read. I felt like there were some significant gaps in it. However, like Terri, I couldn’t put it down.

  8. Shoeless

     /  June 2, 2011

    I as well really enjoyed this book, quick read!


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