I've been waiting anxiously to get my hands on this novel by Jeannette Walls. Walls' memoir The Glass Castle (my review here) remains one of my favorite books, and certainly in the top 5 memoirs I've ever read. Subtitled "A True-Life Novel," Half Broke Horses is the story of Walls' grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, a rough-and-tumble ranching/teaching woman. From her birth in a dugout in Texas to her failed marriage in Chicago and then as a rancher's wife back in the southwest, Lily Casey Smith remains indefatigable. She can't be broken—or even half broken—by the elements, the economy, or people.
The story can't be compared to The Glass Castle, so don't even try. Written in a first-person narrative that is as tough as Lily, Half-Broke Horses lacks the emotional depth of The Glass Castle. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth reading; in fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lily was a remarkable woman, and her life story is full of adventure told in a matter-of-fact way. The novel is fast-paced and well written and certainly stands on its own, without the backdrop of The Glass Castle.
But if you've read The Glass Castle, you'll find yourself searching for signs. How did the negligent Rosemary in Walls' memoir come from such confident, industrious parents? Walls includes plenty of insight into Rosemary's childhood, and it's easy to see that Rosemary could have benefited from some sweet, gentle mothering. When I finished this novel, I immediately wanted to pick up The Glass Castle again to revisit Rosemary and Rex and the continuation of their story.
Other Reviews of Half-Broke Horses
Book Club Classics
Just a Dollop
A Novel Menagerie
The Literate Housewife