Reviews in 200 Words

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

In True-life Novel on January 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Somehow the life of Lily Casey Smith (Jeannette Walls’ grandmother) is both ordinary and extraordinary at once. Her belt is notched with accomplishment. She saves her siblings in a flash flood, she breaks horses by age six, she travels 500 miles on her horse to start teaching at one-room schoolhouses by age fifteen. She loses a sister, marries because she wants children, gives birth to a daughter and a son, works a ranch, runs whiskey, learns to fly planes, teaches all over the southwest: Mormons and Indians alike. The list goes on. The logistics of this life are impressive, but what’s remarkable is the fact that there were a lot of people like this: civilian heros. Rich lives packed with feats. A whole generation of strong women who lived the lives they wanted to live before it was acceptable, much less proper. Lily reminds us of Amelia Earhart without the fame, or Scout Finch in the Indian reservation southwest. Lily collects bottles to cash-in and splurges when her family needs it. She drives a hearse. She doesn’t take shit from anyone—not harassing cowboys or do-good church ladies. Lily sees her family through the Depression just as she breaks a horse: with surety and grace.

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