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Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses starts with a ten year old Lily Casey Smith having to think and act fast to save the lives of herself and her younger brother and sister from a flash flood. Lily grew up in a poor family with a strongly religious mother and a very bright father keen to impart his knowledge to her whenever he could.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

A hard worker and keen to learn, Lily is obviously a bright child. It just doesn’t seem that life is going to throw her a good hand. Her father encouraged her often that whatever hand she was dealt in life, she needed to learn to play it the best that she could.

Half Broke Horses follows Lily’s desperate attempts to make something of herself as she grows into a young women and is given an opportunity to teach kids of varying ages during the war. Her family’s reliance on her to break in horses, carrying out necessary farm life chores and hiring, managing and firing staff due to her father not being able to communicate effectively with those outside of his family tires Lily. Seeing a chance to escape from the endless chores, Lily jumps at the opportunity to teach in a town 500 miles away.

At fifteen she packs her bags and sets off on a mustang mare named Patches that she broke in herself. Over these years that she is away from home, Lily follows her father’s advice about life and finds she is able to fend for herself and what’s more, plan for her future the way she’d like it to be.

After the war ends, there is no longer a need for a (great) teacher who is young and without an education past year eight. Finding herself without a job, Lily returns home but is soon bound for what Chicago has to offer her. Never one to back down when life throws you lemons, Half Broke Horses tells the story of Lily Casey Smith who just keeps getting back up from being knocked about by life.

I found this book easy to read.  It’s written in the first person from the point of view of a quick witted, straight thinking, ambitious woman. What surprised me about this novel is that it is in fact written by Jeanette Walls, the grand daughter of Lily Casey Smith. This factually based story has been turned into a novel but is written based on events that did occur.

The novel shows well the tough life of a rancher who is consistently kept busy in the hope of prospering. Horses feature throughout, thought not as heavily as I’d anticipated and there is some mild cursing throughout the book. Overall however it’s an interesting and inspiring read.

Author: Jeannette Walls
Half Broke Horses at GoodReads
Non Fiction – A factual novel told from the eyes of the main character’s grand daughter.
In my library? You bet.  A recent addition that will be staying in the collection.
Want it? Get it now on Amazon.

“The child who ran weeping to you with a cut finger is now brought home, smiling gamely, with a broken collarbone and incredible contusions- ‘it wasn’t Jezebels fault, Dad.'” – Pam Brown

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