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Half Broke Horses

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  108,765 Ratings  ·  9,883 Reviews
"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did."

So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls’ no-nonsense, resourceful, 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, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Scribner (first published October 6th 2008)
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Janelle No it doesn't matter they are two separate stories but are connected. I read the Glass Castle first and then Half Broke Horses. I kept thinking back…moreNo it doesn't matter they are two separate stories but are connected. I read the Glass Castle first and then Half Broke Horses. I kept thinking back to the glass castle toward the end of Half Broke Horses when Rex was introduced. If I had a do over I would of read Half Broke Horses first and then Glass Castle. So I think you are good. (less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 12, 2015 Diane rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, humorous
"I never knew a girl to have such gumption," [Mom would] say. "But I'm not too sure that's a good thing." -- Half Broke Horses

I loved this book! It's a true-life novel about Walls' grandmother, Lily Casey, who had an amazing life. She was born in 1901 in a dugout in Texas, and learned about ranching from her father. At 15, she left home to be a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Arizona. She was also an accomplished horsewoman, she knew how to repair cars and she learned how to fly a plane. Li
Dec 17, 2011 Mayda rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
If you've read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and wondered about Rosemary's lack of maternal instincts and caring, this book will help explain why she was the way she was. Told in first person, with Jeanette's grandmother, Lily, as the central character, the novel is strewn with facts and stories handed down through family members to Jeannette. Not as compelling as The Glass Castle, it is, nevertheless, a book well worth reading. Lily is a most unforgettable character, and the time frame a ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Jeannette Walls's original intent was to write a book about her mother Rose Mary's childhood on an Arizona ranch. Rose Mary convinced her that it was grandmother Lily's life story that needed to be told. Having read the book, I have to agree. What a life! Hard times and hard work in the early 1900s, trying to scratch out a life on ranches in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Lily lived on Route 66 when it was still a dirt road.

Walls chose to call the book a novel because she got all the stories s
One way to really get me pissed off is to tell me that the past was innocent and simple. What you really mean when you say that is that your childhood was innocent and simple, which is probably also debatable, but at least seems fair from a nostalgic standpoint. The farther we look back to our childhoods, the more innocent life seems, and so things that happened before we were born must be the most innocent. No. Not true. People have always been just about as fucked up as we are now. I would say ...more
Nov 06, 2009 Serena rated it really liked it
This is the second book I've read from Jeannette Walls, and for the second time I've really enjoyed her writing. The voice in this story is different from The Glass Castle but equally as engaging, and once again it's all true! It also inevitably makes you wonder (for those who've read the GC) how this story ties into the lives of author's parents, and why things turned out the way they did.

It's a great escape from the reality we live in now, with computers, text messaging, and the crazy speed at
This book is based on a real person, Liley Casey Smith. She was a tough woman who learnt enough lessons in her life to make her survive in any which way possible. Along the way she learns not to trust people, and with reason.

Born in a dug-out in Texas with a anti-authoritarian father with a physical disability, but a very strong mind, and a mother who cared more about lost social standing than physical hard work, Lily quickly learns to make up her own mind and let things happen. Riding five hund
Dec 03, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am in the midst of this read but I have to say as soon as I read the first page I was invested in what was to unfold. It was a real grabber of a opening.
I finished this book and enjoyed every moment of reading. It was so interesting. It covered many changes in the main characters life and it represented how most people will deal with what comes their way, with grace and acceptance. Very good book.
Oct 26, 2009 Tony rated it it was ok
Walls, Jeannette. HALF BROKE HORSES. (2009). **. I seem to have stumbled across a sixth-grade reader masquerading as main-stream fiction. The inside jacket calls this book, “Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults.” I’d call it more, “Calamity Jane: Her Life as Told by Herself.” It is, ostensibly, a partly fictionalized life of the author’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, who grew up on a hard-scrabble farm/rance, learning to do what all the other ranch hands did and what her father couldn’t do. Her fath ...more
Nov 08, 2010 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it
A great story, just as in The Glass Castle. How could a mother and daughter be any different? To me, there were 2 "sins of omission" here--one, I really wish Walls would have put a map at the beginning of the book of the west where Lily lived because I'm not familiar with the distances and all the moves back and forth. The other, since it is a work of fiction based on her grandmother's life (vs. a biography) Walls could have extended the book by another 100 pages or so to really emphasize some o ...more
Sep 27, 2009 Bridget rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009-reads
This is the story of the author's grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. It is called a "True Life Novel" because it is written from the stories that the author, Jeannette Walls, remembers her grandmother telling, rather than from personal papers.

Lily comes across as a pretty amazing woman, who is also a survivor. She makes her way through life in a pretty no-nonsense kind of manner, always managing to find a way to make things work, whether it is The Great Depression, or tornadoes and floods.

I read thi
Oct 09, 2010 Judy rated it really liked it
I wish Jeannette Walls' biography/novel 'Half Broke Horses' had been available prior to her own biography 'The Glass Castle'. Both of the stories are related and rivetting but 'Half Broke Horses' provides the background for Jeannette's bizarre upbringing. This account of her grand-mother's life living on ranches in west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona is a wonderful tribute to a 'pioneer' who isn't afraid of hard labor--she's one spunky, admirable woman and a real survivor.
Nov 02, 2009 Sherry rated it really liked it
Walls' latest novel skillfully blends her grandmother's rich history with the fascinating history of her day, taking us on a journey from the turn of the twentieth century to the post-WWII era. Readers get a thorough and compelling picture of what life was like for competent, hard-working cattle ranchers in the American southwest during the Dust Bowl days. Unflappable, grandmother Lily Casey Smith lived an adventurous life: a young woman growing up on ranches in wide open spaces (and at various ...more
Sep 30, 2011 Olivia rated it really liked it
It would be difficult not to like the writing style of Jeannette Walls. Elegant and down to earth at the same time, she has the ability to strike a chord of familiarity in the reader. She makes it easy to let yourself become a part of the story and to visualize the characters within their element. Loved this story. It’s the simple things in life that can sometimes lead to extraordinary story telling. Ms. Walls gets a four on the GR scale because of her ability to tell a great tale. And for that, ...more
Jul 10, 2012 D rated it it was amazing
A well-told story about a gutsy, rock-strong lady with a heart bigger and better than most folks out there...a friend who recommended and loaned the novel to me remarked that she wished that Lily Casey really was a fictional character so that there could be a whole series based on her...I agreed, but at the same time, I almost wish it was a story that was completely nonfiction, a pure biography...I want the true Lily Casey to be as strong and amazing, as solid and determined, as she was depicted ...more
May 11, 2014 Chrissie rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot. It has great, humorous lines. The author call this a book of fiction because although it is about her grandmother (Lily) and the youth of her mother, the star of The Glass Castle, Jeannette was only eight when her grandmother died. What we are told are the stories repeated by her family. The dialogs are invented. It is these lines that are so marvelous. There is such humor in them and wisdom too. I like Lilly. Here is a woman who was never crushed by hard times. She live ...more
Jul 12, 2015 Katherine rated it it was amazing
”You can’t fence them in,
Cause they were born to run and then,
You think you’ve got ‘em where ya want’’em
Then they leave you all alone…
Half Broke Horses,
They never come back home- Jaida Dreyer”

Setting:Texas and Arizona; 1901-1965

Cover Thoughts:These kids look thoroughly unimpressed with everything. Even the cat looks unimpressed. But I really feel that this picture (by Dorothea Lange) captures the hardscrabble, no nonsense feel of the book.

”I asked Dad if he believed that everything tha
Elisha Condie
Feb 08, 2011 Elisha Condie rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-clubs
I feel exactly the same way my friend Anna did about this book - I loved it at first but then it kind of went downhill from there. I'd say me and this book parted cordially, not really friendly like. I just finished reading it and that's why I'm using country-bumpkinish language. A note to Ms. Walls -it's not all that charming, is it?

This story follows Walls' real life grandmother and her colorful life, living in a dugout out West, being scammed in Chicago, working her way back out West, marr
Dec 08, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it
Not as compelling as "Glass Castle," but this definitely grew on me half-way through. Once you realize that it's not another autobiography (oops) of Walls, you'll probably be disappointed. This is a short-ish read of the life of her mother's mother, Lilly. Walls put together a first-person story of her unique grandmother who lived her hard life on a ranch. Although Walls might have captured the essence of her grandmother, this does not come close to her own memoir. She should stick with what she ...more
Mar 09, 2010 Marissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
I really enjoyed this book, it gave you quite an image of what life was like in the rural West back in the early 1900's. And it totally makes me want to re-read the Glass Castle! (No, you don't need to have read it before you read this.)
Joey Cardoza
Sep 02, 2011 Joey Cardoza rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is one way to sum this book up: WWLCSD! WHAT WOULD LILLY CASEY SMITH DO!?

If you liked the Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls you will love Half Broke Horses, the follow up.. err should I say the prequel? I never know which story to recommend reading first, a toss up that of which can only be properly settled by reading both stories and deciding for yourself.

The Glass Castle was the author's first book, a memoir detailing her childhood that would give just about anyone who thinks they had it
Apr 28, 2010 Kate rated it liked it
Exciting tale about Lily Casey Smith, a Depression-era survivor who makes tough situations work for her. Also reminds me that I'm glad I never lived in a "dug-out," where bugs and scorpions come out of the mud walls.

The story is a prequel to Walls's memoir, the Glass Castle, and that's part of the problem. The novel doesn't have much of an arc. Smith, who is Walls's grandmother, gets more secure and progressively weirder as the novel goes on, but the focus seems to be that Smith's daughter grow
Mar 26, 2010 Brooke rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sandy, Melissa, Kathy, Barrie
Recommended to Brooke by: Julie,
Picked this up at the airport and blew through 100 pages same day. I am loving the main character so far, her voice cam through loud and clear.

This was definitely the right read at the right time kind of book. Also enjoyed having read the Glass Castle, I had a perspective of how Rosemary's life would turn out and such a contrast in the way her mother raised her vs. how she raised her daughter.

Well worth purchasing in paperback, I see myself lending this out to lots of folks.

Good read!!
Jan 22, 2010 Deborah rated it really liked it
I am surprisingly enjoying this book that I picked up as a plane-trip book at the Chicago airport. Having heard of the author, it was a whim to read this, her latest memoir/novel featuring thoughts and memories of her grandmother, great grandmother and mother. It's an exceptionally heartwarming read full of pioneer stories and characters.
February book club read.....

What an enjoyable read. It was unanimous by the group, that we all would loved to have known Lily and the author did a fantastic job of bringing us right into the story. Highly recommended.
Books of this caliber appeal to me for many reasons and one of them is that I grew up hearing about the "good ole days" of farming, the depression, running moonshine to name a few. Of course this book really settled quite nicely as good reading for me. I loved reading about this spunky and courageous woman though at times she ran the line of being too careless. I do have a bone to pick with a few incidents in the book, in particular the time she taxied a group of women visiting from the east. Ap ...more
Mar 25, 2010 Crystal rated it it was amazing
To be honest, five stars might be too generous, but I was so very impressed by this author's rise to a seemingly unsurmountable challenge, which was to create a worthy, readable, enjoyable book following the HUGE success of her first book.

In her first book, "The Glass Castle", Ms. Walls gives us a glimpse into her tragic yet memorable family. And while "Half Broke Horses" is a novel, it satisfies the voyeuristic curiosity by retelling us tales about her maternal grandmother which seems to defini
Anna Jaworski
Feb 16, 2010 Anna Jaworski rated it really liked it
I found this book to be a good, quick read. It answered a lot of questions regarding how Rose Mary came to be the woman she was depicted as in "The Glass Castle." I wish I had read this book first because now I want to reread Jeannette Wall's first book. Jeannette Walls' mother's upbringing was so unconventional that it's not surprising she, in turn, would parent in an unconventional way. What's hard to understand is how Rose Mary turned out to be as abusive and uncaring as she was given how dri ...more
Clif Hostetler
Jan 13, 2011 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Wow! How would you like to have a grandmother who had been a bootlegger, poker player, mustang breaker and racehorse rider, in addition to filling the more conventional roles of mother of two, schoolteacher, and ranch wife? This book tells the story of the interesting life of the author's grandmother who lived from 1901 to 1968 and spent most of her life in rural areas of New Mexico and Arizona. Anyone who has read the author's previous book, The Glass Castle, will recognize the same spunky spir ...more
Lars Guthrie
Dec 12, 2010 Lars Guthrie rated it it was amazing
The writing in Jeanette Walls’s ‘Half Broke Horses’ is unfussy, unfancy and unfettered. Told in the first person—and fictional—voice of her grandmother, it is by necessity free of high-falutin’ vocabulary. Lily Casey Smith would not have put up with any such nonsense.

That’s not to say ‘Half Broke Horses’ is unpoetic. When Lily’s hopelessly romantic sister Helen ends her own life, the hurt transcends personal grief: ‘When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re
Jun 05, 2012 Lauren rated it it was amazing
Jeannette Walls’ first book, The Glass Castle, was the best book I read last summer. While that book detailed her life on the road with a pair of nomads as parents, this book told the incredible story of her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, as she grew up in the tough terrain of the old west.

Lily Casey Smith was quite a woman. She could ride horses better than any man, teach any child who entered her classroom, and at a time and place when the tough terrain of the west could kill you at
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Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, she graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women's college affiliated with Columbia University. She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005. The book is being made into a film by Paramount.
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“Most important thing in life is learning how to fall.” 402 likes
“Nobody's perfect. We're all just one step up from the beasts and one step down from the angels.” 202 likes
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