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Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel [Hardcover]

Jeannette Walls
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 6 2009
Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle was "nothing short of spectacular" (Entertainment Weekly). Now she brings us the story of her grandmother -- told in a voice so authentic and compelling that the book is destined to become an instant classic.

"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls's magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard working, 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, all alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car ("I loved cars even more than I loved horses. They didn't need to be fed if they weren't working, and they didn't leave big piles of manure all over the place") and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom 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. 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. It will transfix readers everywhere.

Frequently Bought Together

Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel + The Silver Star: A Novel + The Glass Castle
Price For All Three: CDN$ 48.53

  • The Silver Star: A Novel CDN$ 18.80
  • The Glass Castle CDN$ 8.31

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Product Details

Product Description


"Lily Casey Smith is one astonishing woman...a half-broke horse herself who's clearly passed on her best traits to her granddaughter. Told in a natural, offhand voice that is utterly enthralling, this is essential reading for anyone who loves good fiction." -- Library Journal

"Walls [is] ... a pretty doggone good storyteller." -- Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Half Broke Horses [is] the tale of yet another free-spirited wisecracking relative, her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Think a rifle-toting, horse-breaking Annie Oakley in a biplane." -- Craig Wilson, USA Today

About the Author

Jeannette Walls graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times bestseller for more than six years. She is also the author of the instant New York Times bestsellers, The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses, which was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible True-Life Story Aug. 23 2012
By Teri B.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book brings to life the extraordinary Lily Casey, born in 1901. Witten as a novel, the story is told through Lily Casey`s voice, giving shape to her character. An independent and resilient woman, her amazing real-life adventures provide a view into the era that eclipse any history book. The novel begins with the inspiring episode of an 11 year-old Lily using her wits during a flash flood at her childhood home in West Texas, saving herself and her young brother and sister. She began a teaching career at the age of 15, riding her horse Patches on a lone journey 500 miles through New Mexico and Arizona to her first post in a one-room schoolhouse, where she taught during the day and slept on the floor at night. Continuing through to her later years, this is a rich story, amazing, sometimes heartbreaking, and altogether a wonderful read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Her Mother's Daughter Jan. 22 2010
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
This is the story many of us have been waiting for Jeanette Walls to write: an life-long adventure straight from the heart and told the old-fashion way. For many of us who have ancestors who have grown up in grinding poverty, a rough-and-tumble existence, and a make-what-you-will lifestyle of another era, "Half Broke Horses" is the book for you. Here are ten helpful features to look for when reading this gem of a memoir based on a woman's gritty determination to make the most of life in the Arizona desert, especially when times were very rough during the Great Depression:
A. Walls presents a consistently believable picture of her grandmother's life as she constantly looked for ways to overcome adversity. Here is a woman whose resourcefulness and tack usually came down to 'necessity being the mother of invention";
B. Walls takes her readers into the backwoods of Arizona to view the daily existence of little farming communities like Red Lake that no longer exist;
C. The author acquaints us with a sense of what it meant to reside in the remote parts of the country, trying to eke out a meager living as cattle rancher or sheep herder;
D. There are some significant historic landmarks like Route 66 in this story that serve to remind us how these modern pioneers like Lily Casey Smith kept in touch with the rest of the world with her car Fliver;
E. There is a tremendous natural energy in the novel coming from the various forces of nature, i.e. cyclones and droughts, being unleashed on the wilds of northern Arizona;
F. Each page seems to reveal some new dimension about the incredible challenges facing the pioneers of the Southwest, whether they be sodfarmers, ranchers, or wranglers;
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Half Broke Horses Jan. 9 2010
Half Broke Horses was a Christmas gift for my mother. She comes from a farming back ground and used horses to cultivate the land and travel to town. Although she lived in southern Manitoba, the authors experiences were much the same. Recomened for seniors who wish to reminisce about younger days, or those who wish to get a sence of what the pioneers experienced.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half broke horses July 26 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Definitely not as good as glass castle by the same author.. So far disappointed as I read glass castle and really enjoyed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reminded me of my mother. Jan. 13 2012
I read this book in two evenings and was amazed by Lily.As I said it kind of reminded me of my mother,a woman who during hard times and the good times soldiered on during the Great Depression.Lost her father,a railway man,in 1918 during her early teen years and being the eldest of six she taught with the help of her mother,her siblings who all turned out well.They were so poor that if the mud pout were not biting they sometimes didn't eat.A tough lady who passed on her knowledge to my siblings and I.God bless her and Lily too.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Half Broke Horses Feb. 1 2010
I read Half Broke Horses in a week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lily Casey Smith was a strong character and reminded me of my own mother's life as a one room school teacher. I have previously read Jeannette Walls Memoir (The Glass Castle) and wanted to read Half Broke Horses to give me some insight into Jeannette's mother's upbringing and the impact it had on Jeannette's rather unusual. I now plan to read The Glass Castle again. Half Broke Horses was an interesting read but The Glass Castle is one of those books that left a lasting impression on me and will go down as one of my favorites.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Half Broke Horse Jan. 28 2010
Glass castle (Jeannette Walls first book) is on of those books that has never stopped haunting me. to now have a deeper
insight into the charcters of that book thru Half Broke Horse is a dream come true. i love the way Walls writes, i am imediatly transported not only to the time and place described in the book, but i can hear the roar of the flash flood and smell the flowers that bloomed after. Walls has a way with dialog in this book that can reveil the charcters strength,and or weakness without leading you to such conclusions. the only thing dissapointing about the book is that it came to an end. i look forward to walls next book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Half Broke Horses Jan. 27 2010
By My Boys
After the first couple of pages, I was hooked. The star attraction in the book has this amazing ability to express her thoughts on life so accurately. You actually feel as if you are living in her shoes. Very down to earth and I honestly had to check twice to ensure that it wasn't based on a true story. I would highly recommend this book and am anxiously awaiting a sequel.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good book.
Published 10 days ago by P. Lemieux
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives us the back story of Wall's "Glass Castle". ...
Gives us the back story of Wall's "Glass Castle". Flows fluently and convincingly of a life that was closer to fiction than fact, But fact it was. Read more
Published 25 days ago by elizabeth green
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read so real.
Published 1 month ago by Susan Colbeck
4.0 out of 5 stars very good!!!
Really enjoyed this book as well as the others...hope that she will write more hooks in the future!!! Good job!!
Published 5 months ago by Jenny
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book!
Jeannette Walls writes so beautifully- I feel that I am there with the characters. The description is so complete...perfection.
I look forward to reading another of her books. Read more
Published 8 months ago by reader extraordinaire
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good book by this author
Of course I loved this author's other book: The Glass Castle much, much more, but this was still a good read.
Published 9 months ago by Firestar
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Bio
Really good book about life early in the century - she was one strong lady! I recommend to anyone interested in the early West.
Published 10 months ago by Breakmel
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Story
I really enjoyed this story. It was one of those books that was hard to leave. You will really enjoy it!
Published 11 months ago by Eleanor Snyders
5.0 out of 5 stars Half Broke Horses.
Loved the storyline. It held my attention and I enjoyed reading about the children's escapades. Great read. Another good book by Jeannettte Walls.
Published 11 months ago by Lynn Donnelly
5.0 out of 5 stars This book show the power of a woman soul.
Liked this book very much. The strength of the main character shows the true source of a woman strength is her will to survive in the face of adversity.
Published 12 months ago by Angela J. Rae
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