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Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  118,742 Ratings  ·  10,358 Reviews
Jeannette Walls's memoir The Glass Castle was "nothing short of spectacular" (Entertainment Weekly). Now, in Half Broke Horses, she brings us the story of her grandmother, told in a first-person voice that is authentic, irresistible, and triumphant.

"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls's no nonsen
Audio, 272 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Simon & Schuster Audio (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)
Hazel Ambers We actually read it in school. It was part of put English lit course. Students 15 to 18. There's nothing in it I'd be concerned about, in fact, I…moreWe actually read it in school. It was part of put English lit course. Students 15 to 18. There's nothing in it I'd be concerned about, in fact, I learned of positive life lessons.(less)
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Jun 13, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 24, 2011 Mayda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 26, 2009 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 27, 2009 Bridget rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 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.
Jul 26, 2010 Sterlingcindysu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 29, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was fun! Very much looking forward to author's own memoir. The first person narrator worked so well.
Oct 09, 2010 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 12, 2011 Olivia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2009 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently read the The Glass Castle and decided to pick up this memoir which is a prequel to it. The author tells the story of her grandmother the rancher who was a gritty, resourceful, moxie filled character. The era and lifestyle are so beautifully portrayed; that you almost can sense the heat, dust, and animal smell. I found the book particularly interesting because the author also chronicles her own mother as a child and young adult. In fact, Half Broke Horses ends with Jeannette Wall's bir ...more
Feb 06, 2017 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ecolit, memoir
"If you want to be reminded of the love of the Lord, Mom always said, just watch the sunrise. And if you want to be reminded of the wrath of the Lord, Dad said, watch a tornado." Thus starts an absorbing, humorous, remarkable "true-life novel" based on bestselling memoirist Jeannette Walls's grandmother's life. There are plenty of sunrise moments, as Lilly is as much a part of the landscape as she is a product of her parents' pioneer life, and there are plenty of tornado moments (the book starts ...more
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
Courtney Allen
Apr 06, 2017 Courtney Allen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Half Broke Horses is about an earlier America that has been mostly forgotten--until works such as this kindly remind us. There is a heart beat in this book that found its way into my reading chair and remained there until the last page. The writing style is simple but artistic, with a well-crafted storyline and a strong, dynamic primary character. This book is also well written with many believable and colorful characters that I found enjoyable. The story drew me along and took me away; it took ...more
Elisha Condie
Feb 08, 2011 Elisha Condie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2012 D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
”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
Naomi Sarah
Mar 11, 2015 Naomi Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I LOVE THIS BOOK. (Sooo close to rating it a smashing five.)

1. First off, IT'S A TRUE STORY. And that makes it 100x better and more interesting. Not to mention fascinating.
2. LILY IS AMAZING. I feel like a feeble weakling with no courage whatsoever when I read about her! Driving on horseback for over a month through the prairies and deserts to teach in a strange village for half a year....? AT THE AGE OF FIFTEEN? Wo.ah. Holding her sister in a poplar tree for the whole night so that she wouldn
Rebecca McNutt
Half Broke Horses is one of the most moving and nostalgic memoirs I've ever read. The author pulls readers into a gritty country life where times are tough but ultimately it's all worth it.
SheriC (Portable Magic)
This book is exactly what it promised to be: a fictionalized memoir, based on the author's oral family history. It follows the author's grandmother's life story, which was a somewhat adventurous one. The story, like all good family histories, has the unmistakable elements of the tall tale (or as my own dad puts it, "telling lies") where the truth has been either stretched or embroidered to fill in the gaps or make boring stuff more interesting, or to interpret events as Fate/God's Will.

The prob
Apr 28, 2010 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 25, 2010 Crystal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 18, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 19, 2010 Marissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 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
Oct 07, 2009 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!!
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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 adapted into a film coming to theaters this August 11th.
More about Jeannette Walls...

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“Most important thing in life is learning how to fall.” 433 likes
“Nobody's perfect. We're all just one step up from the beasts and one step down from the angels.” 233 likes
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