When we chose Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls as our second Online Book Club selection, many of us were familiar with the author’s work. Jeannette Walls’ 2005 bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, was a book club favourite when it came out. It was her memoir of growing up in the midst of a family struggling with alcoholism and mental illness.
Half Broke Horses tells the life story of the author’s grandmother, Lily. Lily is a remarkable woman who overcame many hardships during her years growing up in Texas, California, Chicago and Arizona. Throughout the pages of the book, we accompany Lily as she survives tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression and person tragedy. She emerges as “an amazing and admirable woman, especially considering the time in which she grew up.”
While The Glass Castle succeeded in its autobiographical genre because of its ability to be completely honest, in Half Broke Horses, Walls is able to flesh out her grandmother’s story with her own strong storytelling skills. Walls uses the first person narrative, so the reader is once again completely immersed by an authentic and natural voice.
One of the first things that our book club members remarked upon was the “pace” of the book. Set up in short chapters, each telling a bit of Lily’s story, Half Broke Horses is almost more like a collection of short stories than a novel. All readers enjoyed the style, and found the book very easy to pick up and put down…always a critical consideration for reading mothers!
I heard one reviewer describe Half Broke Horses as “Laura Ingalls Wilder” for adults, and I think it’s a valid comparison. With Lily Casey Smith, the reader is introduced to a no-nonsense, strong and fascinating heroine, who leaves you wishing you could spend a little more time with her.
Book club members enjoyed Lily’s amazing ability to change the direction of her own life. There were certainly times when she could have blamed others for where she ended up. Instead, when faced with adversity, she was able to pick up and start over in a way that we all admired. Our book club discussion veered into an interesting conversation about how we’d react to such adversity in our own lives.
Overall, the UrbanMoms Online Book club found Half Broke Horses to be a compelling story about a strong woman. Many of us have passed the book along to our husbands, who have also enjoyed it, so this is an easy book to recommend to all readers!