Saturday, May 8, 2010

Half Broke Horses

by Jeannette Walls
Finished April 2010

This is a companion to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. While the first book was a memoir of the author's life, this one is a "true-life" novel based on her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith.

Jeannette Walls has been criticized with both books for creating history and manufacturing unbelievable lives for her characters. That's probably why this book is called a "true-life novel" rather than a biography. Nothing wildly unbelieveable happens. But Lily Casey Smith didn't have a normal life. She grew up on a poor ranch in Arizona and left home as soon as she could to persue a better life (or at least a different one) as a teacher. She tried the big city of Chicago but realized that she was a half broke horse at heart. She belonged in the untamed lands of the southwest.

Her determination and grit kept her and her family alive through drought, floods and the depression. Contrasting her strong character with that of her daughter - especially as Rose Mary was depicted in The Glass Castle - is very interesting. Lily would work three jobs and wear the same clothes day after day in an effort to save money for her family. Rose Mary would hide candy bars from her children ("I can't help it. I'm a sugar addict.") while they subsisted on half eaten sandwiches taken from the school cafeteria trash.

I loved the book The Glass Castle. But I think I enjoyed this one more. Lily, while she could be a hard person at times, was admirable and almost heroic. She broke wild horses on her father's ranch as a young girl. She continued to break metaphorical horses the rest of her life.

I really like this book a lot.

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