I was a little hesitant about this one because I read the reviews were not as good as they were for 'The Glass Castle.' You know what I have to say about that? I say, "Shame on those reviewers!" I think they said that because they wanted to jump on a band wagon filled with self proclaimed literary aficionados, who seem to believe that a great first book cannot possibly be followed with an equally as great second book! In this case, that is exactly what happened however; 'Half Broke Horses' is not only as good as 'The Glass Castle,' it compliments it. It fills in a background of the family and we learn that the spirit of the family members is an inherent thing.
'Half Broke Horses' is the story of Lily Casey Smith, the author's grandmother, whom we first meet in 'The Glass Castle.' What a woman! Without people like Lily, the west would never have been settled. She was beyond feisty; she had a spirit that was beyond any possibility of ever being 'broke.' In fact, she was the tamer of wild horses, the one who knew how to take a fall and get back into the saddle, who knew you don't sit around moping when the odds are against you but instead, you just find a different way to saddle up.
Lily was a horse trainer by nature, possibly one of the first horse whisperers ever. But 'Half Broke Horses' does not really have much to do with the wild mustangs but more to do with people, people who do not profit from broken spirits but who fly the fields with fire and gusto.
After reading this, we know why an elderly Rosemary Walls, Jeannette's mother, was perfectly comfortable living on the streets of NYC, why unconventionality was simply, well, conventional for her.
This was quite a book. I was a bit put off because it's called 'A True Life Novel.' But Walls explains that in her Author's Note. She says, in part:
"I wrote this story in the first person because I wanted to capture Lily's distinctive voice, which I clearly recall. At the time I didn't think of the book as fiction. Lily Casey Smith was a very real woman, and to say that I created her or the events of her life is giving me more credit than I'm due. However, since I don't have the words from Lily herself, and since I have also drawn on my imagination to fill in details that are hazy or missing - and I've changed as few names to protect people's privacy - the only honest thing to do is to call the book a novel."
When I read that, I immediately thought of James Frey and all the hoopla that erupted when it came out that his memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," was in fact, not all true. and I wondered if that is why Walls labelled her book the way she did.
Regardless of that, I was as enamoured with this book as much as I was with Walls first.