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Book Review: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Lily Casey Smith grew up on a homestead in Texas, learning to break horses at a young age. From childhood, she was a survivor, showing strength in the face of many challenges. She was the responsible one in her family, making up for her father who was a dreamer and her mother who was better suited to a plantation house than shack in the country. Most important to many readers, Lily became the mother of Rosemary Smith Walls, author Jeannette Walls' mother who is depicted in her memoir The Glass Castle.

Having read The Glass Castle a few years ago, I was thrilled when my book club chose to read Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. This is not another memoir, or even a biography of the author's grandmother. Instead, it is a "true-life novel" based on Lily's life with some embellishments along the way. Written in Lily's voice, it's an engaging read, much like the author's memoir. Her life is fascinating, from growing up on the homestead, to her marriages and child-rearing, to learning to play poker and fly a plane. Lily had plenty of adventures in her life and it's clear that her granddaughter enjoys retelling these stories.

Those who have read The Glass Castle already will enjoy hearing about Rosemary's childhood and the beginning of her relationship with Rex. And those who have not read the memoir yet will be compelled to read it upon finishing Half Broke Horses. They really do fit very well together.

My Rating: 4/5

Read my review of The Glass Castle
Discussion questions for Half Broke Horses

This review was written based on a copy of Half Broke Horses that I obtained through Paperback Swap.


  1. It is great to hear they fit well together, I will have to read it, I have it. Glass Castle was my first memoir and I enjoy the genre now.

    1. I think you'd like it. It's not a memoir but it reads like one.

  2. While I don't think this is a book I'll enjoy, I do love to read human interest stories once in a while. Getting a different perspective in life is fascinating and uplifting.


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