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Half Broke Horses
by Jeannette Walls

Published: 2010-07-15
Paperback : 64 pages
143 members reading this now
64 clubs reading this now
147 members have read this book
For the first 10 years of her life, Lily Casey Smith, the narrator of this true-life novel by her granddaughter, Walls, lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas. Walls, whose mega selling memoir, The Glass Castle, recalled her own upbringing, writes in what she recalls as Lily's plainspoken ...
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Introduction

(For the first 10 years of her life, Lily Casey Smith, the narrator of this true-life novel by her granddaughter, Walls, lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas. Walls, whose mega selling memoir, The Glass Castle, recalled her own upbringing, writes in what she recalls as Lily's plainspoken voice, whose recital provides plenty of drama and suspense as she ricochets from one challenge to another. Having been educated in fits and starts because of her parents' penury, Lily becomes a teacher at age 15 in a remote frontier town she reaches after a solo 28-day ride. Marriage to a bigamist almost saps her spirit, but later she weds a rancher with whom she shares two children and a strain of plucky resilience. (They sell bootleg liquor during Prohibition, hiding the bottles under a baby's crib.) Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice, a rodeo rider and fearless breaker of horses, and a ruthless poker player. Assailed by flash floods, tornados and droughts, Lily never gets far from hardscrabble drudgery in several states New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois but hers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience. (Oct.)

Caballos salvajes nos descubre los origenes de la disfuncional familia Walls. Si en El castillo de cristal los ninos nos conmovieron con su fortaleza y sus ganas de vivir, en esta precuela sera Lily Casey Smith, su abuela, la que nos brinde su tenacidad y perseverancia ante las dificultades que atraveso en el camino de su vida. Heroina y pionera en el Lejano Oeste americano, Lily vivio durante sus casi primeros diez anos en una caseta del desierto de Texas. A pesar de la extrema pobreza en que subsistia con sus padres, no tardo en convertirse en una joven maestra de un pueblo situado a 28 dias a caballo, lo que supondria el principio de una sucesion de desafios en una tierra de promesas y a la vez de grandes adversidades. Tras casarse con un hombre bigamo, lo abandona para irse con otro hombre dueno de un rancho con el que tiene dos hijos uno de ellos es Rose Mary Walls, la madre de El castillo de cristal, y durante todo este tiempo se convertira en jinete de rodeo, en domadora de caballos, en una despiadada jugadora de poquer y hara lo imposible porque ella y su familia sobrevivan, con su afan de superacion y su encendida defensa de la libertad de la mujer a principios del siglo xx. Jeannette Walls queria escribir sobre la infancia de su madre, pero la vida de su abuela termino imponiendose. Al final, todo tiene una explicacion.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Jeannette Walls has said that she tried writing this book in the third person but that it didn't work for her. Do you think you are closer to Lily because you get her story in her own voice? Did you "see" Lily Casey Smith as real? What is your response to the first person voice of the book?

2. When Lily's father dies, she and Rosemary drive his body from Tucson back to the ranch in West Texas. Rosemary is embarrassed to be seen driving with a corpse and ducks down in the car when they stop at a red light (pg. 198). "Life's too short, honey," Lily tells Rosemary, "to worry what other people think of you." What does Lily's reaction to this behavior show about her character? Does she give much credence to what other people think of her? What effect do you think her mother's attitude had on Rosemary?

3. Following Helen's suicide, Lily says, "When people kill themselves, they think they're ending the pain, but all they're doing is passing it on to those they leave behind" (pg. 113). Do you agree with this statement?

4. Lily seems willing to sacrifice everything to defend her principles and the rights of others. On more than one occasion, she is fired from a teaching position for refusing to back down from what she believes in. Do you applaud Lily's moral conviction in these instances? Or did you hope that Lily would learn to compromise?

5. Lily has high expectations for her children, from sending them off to boarding school despite their protests to enforcing strict rules for keeping animals as pets. When Rosemary falls in love with a wild horse and asks her mother if she can keep it, Lily replies, "The last thing we need around here is another half-broke horse" (pg. 190). How might this statement apply to Lily's children as well? Are Lily's expectations of her children particularly high or rather a reflection of the times? Why do you think this phrase was chosen as the title of the book?

6. When a group of Brooklyn ladies visits the ranch, Rosemary and Lily take them for a car ride they'll never forget. Lily concludes their encounter by saying, "You ride, you got to know how to fall, and you drive, you got to know how to crash" (pg. 175). How does this statement apply to Lily's life as a whole? What does she mean by knowing "how to fall"?

7. Discuss Lily's husband Jim. How does his personality complement her strong nature?

8. While attempting to prevent the ranch from flooding, Lily tells Rosemary, "Do the best you can...That's all anyone can do." Her instructions are echoed by Jim's declaration: "We did a good job—good as we could" (pg. 152). Why do you think Lily and Jim have both adopted this philosophy? To which other instances in their lives are they likely to have applied this rationale?

9. Lily comes off as tough and resilient, but there are moments in this book of vast heartbreak, where you see her faÇade crack. How does the author handle the death of Lily's friend in Chicago? Her first husband's duplicity? Her sister's suicide? Her suspicions of her husband Jim?

10. Walls calls Half Broke Horses a "true life novel." In her author's note, she explains why. Do you agree with this label? What do you think of the "true life" genre?

11. "Helen's beauty, as far as I was concerned, had been a curse, and I resolved that I would never tell Rosemary she was beautiful" (pg. 119). Examine Lily's relationship with her daughter, Rosemary, and, in The Glass Castle, Rosemary's relationship with Jeannette. How does each generation try to compensate for the one before? How does each mother try to avoid the mistakes or pain imposed upon her by her own mother?

Questions for readers who have also read The Glass Castle

1. In Half Broke Horses, Lily's father decides to bring her home from school so that he can use her tuition money to breed dogs. This instance of selfishness bears a close resemblance to Rex Walls's behavior in The Glass Castle when he takes the money Jeannette's sister has been saving to escape Welch, WV, and goes on a drinking binge. Over and over these men disappoint their children, and yet they are forgiven. Talk about the lack of bitterness in both of these books. How do the children rationalize their parents' behavior?

2. "There was a big difference between needing things and wanting things—though a lot of people had trouble telling the two apart—and at the ranch, I could see, we'd have pretty much everything we'd need but precious little else" (pg. 134–5). How might this description refer to Lily's life as a whole? What effect did growing up without much have on Rosemary Walls, whom we learn more about in The Glass Castle?

3. Both The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses open with a climactic event from the main character's childhood that has left a memorable impression on her. Compare each event and the narrators' descriptions of the events. How do these retellings set the stage for what's to come? Why do you think Walls chose to use them as the openings of both books?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Browse the Internet for a look at Jeannette Walls's online presence. You may wish to read the extensive interview with her at http://gothamist.com/2005/05/27/jeannette_walls_author_the_glass_castle_gossip_columnist_msnbccom.php or watch the video of her appearance on the Stephen Colbert show at http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/85068/april-10-2007/jeannette-walls.

2. Lily's life takes her to many places, from the ranches of her childhood to the frontier towns where she was a teacher. Bring a map of the western United States to your book club meeting and map out the locations of Lily's life as a group. Or, give a copy of the map to each reader in advance so he or she can fill it out as they read.

3. Rent a movie to learn more about Billy the Kid, who was Lily's father's hero. You may wish to rent the 1938 film Billy the Kid Outlawed or take a look at the Discovery Channel 2007 special Billy the Kid: Unmasked, which uses DNA to reveal the Kid's true identity. Both are available via Netflix or at your local video store. Don't forget how Lily and Jim felt about the way cowboys were portrayed in the movies!

Suggested by Members

What do you feel about Lily's attitude toward belief in God?
Do you think Lily makes a good role model to live by?
Do you think that Lily could do anything she set her mind to do.
by Tracymac76 (see profile) 04/23/13

What does the main character's approach to motherhood add to your journey as a mother?
by carolena (see profile) 04/09/10

motherhood, father daughter relationship throughout the book, humility, standing by your convictions no what the consequences.
by pugpages (see profile) 02/12/10

Compare the 3 females in the book.
Discuss the role of motherhood for each of these women.
by NCollins (see profile) 01/12/10

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by stefanieapplegate1 (see profile) 05/23/20

 
by KRoby (see profile) 04/28/20

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 01/31/20

I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into American history from Lily. The characterâ??s voice was authentic, and her life was pretty exceptional. Knowing about the writerâ??s history makes it even more... (read more)

 
by [email protected] (see profile) 01/29/20

I like this book. Grandma was quite an adventurous soul.

 
by PatDaniel (see profile) 10/14/19

 
by dash71 (see profile) 06/01/19

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