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Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel    by Jeannette Walls order for
Half Broke Horses
by Jeannette Walls
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls has been designated a 'True Life Novel'. Rather a contradiction in terms. It was to be about Walls' mother's childhood on a cattle ranch in Arizona. Her mother, Rosemary, convinced Walls that the book should be about her grandmother Lily, who had a very hard but interesting life.

So Walls shifted direction and wrote a novel using Lily as the real life main character and her lifetime of stories to carry the plot. Lily led a hard life on the fast track. She was always ready to try anything new and discard anything she had either gotten too used to or tired of. (As in her first husband a no-gooder.)

By the age of six, Lily helped her father break horses. By fifteen, she was teaching school in a frontier town. She later learned to drive a car and, ultimately, to fly a plane. Lily and her second husband took a job running a cattle ranch of 180,000 acres. No small undertaking. They did it well but eventually the owners moved on to other investments.

Walls tells her grandmother's tale as though she, the writer, was in reality the Lily of whom she wrote. Lily proved to be survivor whether of weather most foul, the Great Depression, or a personal tragedy - and moved on from each event to persevere.

Half Broke Horses is a story of a grueling life bested by a woman with incredible fortitude. She must have been a delight to know but you sure wouldn't want her for an enemy. Walls, author of The Glass Castle, has written a novel about people who stay with you after the last page has been turned.

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