Reviews for Half Broke Horses : A True-Life Novel


Booklist Reviews 2009 September #1
*Starred Review* In her best-selling memoir, The Glass Castle (2005), Walls chronicled her painfully enlightening childhood. She now loops back to tell the even more gripping tale of her maternal grandmother, the formidable horse-training, poker-playing rancher and teacher Lily Casey Smith. Because she patched the story together from reminiscences, used her imagination to fill in the gaps, and decided to have Lily narrate so we could all experience her sharp-shooter's directness, Walls wisely calls this a novel. Fact, fiction, either way, every tall-tale episode in Lily's rough-and-tumble life is hugely entertaining and provocative, while Walls' prose is as crystal clear and reviving as the water Lily cherishes in the high desert. Flash floods, tornadoes, blizzards, drought, con men, bigots, scum, and fools, unflappable Lily courageously faces them all. And why not? She was the smartest and toughest in her otherwise inept West Texas family. As she travels across the plains--winning rodeos, selling moonshine, marrying her soul mate, raising two kids, running a ranch, and teaching in remote one-room schoolhouses--Lily, proud, uncompromising, pistol-packing, and whip-smart, finds a lesson in every setback and showdown. Walls does her grandmother proud in this historically revealing and triumphant novel of a fearless, progressive woman who will not be corralled. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #1
After a fascinating memoir about her vagabond parents (The Glass Castle, 2005), Walls turns her sights on her maternal grandmother Lily Casey Smith, who died when Walls was eight.Because she uses a first-person narrative voice to capture Lily's scrappy voice and imaginatively fills in some of the missing details of Lily's life, Walls calls the work "A True-Life Novel," but it follows the straightforward linear path of biography. Lily's father, whose speech impediment belies his native intelligence, is an eccentric who once spent three years in prison for murder, idolizes Billy the Kid and believes child's play is a waste of time. Lily's childhood on ranches in west Texas and New Mexico is an idyll filled with chores like breaking horses. She wins academic honors at the Catholic boarding school she attends until her father spends her tuition money to buy some dogs. A scrapper, Lily overcomes every setback. Although she has no high-school degree, during World War I's teacher shortage she temporarily lands the teaching jobs she loves. When the jobs evaporate, she moves to Chicago, where she marries a salesman who turns out to be a thieving bigamist, "a crumb bum" as Lily calls him. At 27, she starts college in Arizona where she meets and marries Jim Smith, whose no-nonsense smarts match Lily's. When money gets scarce, Lily, now a teacher and mother of two, supplements the family income by selling bootleg liquor. Jim lands a job managing a 100,000-acre cattle ranch and builds a dam that allows the ranch to survive a terrible drought. When the ranch is sold, the Smiths move to Phoenix, where they live in unaccustomed comfort. But city life does not suit them and they head back to rural Arizona. Lily's relationship with her equally headstrong but less practical daughter Rosemary--who grows up to be Wall's mother--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. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2009 June #1
After her shattering memoir, The Glass Castle, Walls novelizes the life of her indefatigable grandmother, who rode her pony 500 miles to her first job. The 20-city tour and reading group guide brand this as hot stuff. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 2009 July #1

No one familiar with Walls's affecting memoir, The Glass Castle, will be surprised by her subtitle here: Walls is a careful observer who can give true-life stories the rush and immediacy of the best fiction. Here she novelizes the life of her grandmother, giving herself just the latitude she needs to create a great story. Lily Casey Smith is one astonishing woman, tough enough to trot her pony across several hundred miles of desert to her first job when she's only a teenager. After a brief stint in Chicago and marriage to a flim-flam man, she's back in the West, teaching again and eventually remarrying, helping her fine new husband at the gas station, raising her children, and running hootch if she must to make ends meet during the Depression. Her story is at once simple and utterly remarkable, for this is one remarkable woman-a half-broke horse herself who's clearly passed on her best traits to her granddaughter. VERDICT Told in a natural, offhand voice that is utterly enthralling, this is essential reading for anyone who loves good fiction-or any work about the American West. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

[Page 93]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 June #1

For the first 10 years of her life, Lily Casey Smith, the narrator of this "true-life novel" by her granddaughter, Walls, lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas. Walls, whose megaselling memoir, The Glass Castle, recalled her own upbringing, writes in what she recalls as Lily's plainspoken voice, whose recital provides plenty of drama and suspense as she ricochets from one challenge to another. Having been educated in fits and starts because of her parents' penury, Lily becomes a teacher at age 15 in a remote frontier town she reaches after a solo 28-day ride. Marriage to a bigamist almost saps her spirit, but later she weds a rancher with whom she shares two children and a strain of plucky resilience. (They sell bootleg liquor during Prohibition, hiding the bottles under a baby's crib.) Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice, a rodeo rider and fearless breaker of horses, and a ruthless poker player. Assailed by flash floods, tornados and droughts, Lily never gets far from hardscrabble drudgery in several states--New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois--but hers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience. (Oct.)

[Page 28]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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