About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

#84 - Half Broke Horses

Aah, Thanksgiving weekend. Plenty o' reading happening @ Cafe Hazelthyme this week, but precious little blogging -- you can guess the story, but in brief, I was too busy hosting the in-laws and wrangling a big ornery ole turkey. Hence, the next few updates will come like gangbusters, but be fairly brief.

Half Broke Horses
, by Jeannette Walls (New York: Scribner, 2009)

Jacket Summary: "'Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.' So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls's no-nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town -- riding five hundred miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car ('I loved car even more than I loved horses. They didn't need to be fed if they weren't working, and they didn't leave big piles of manure all over the place') and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette's memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.

"Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds -- against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn't fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa or Beryl Markham's West with the Night. It will transfix readers everywhere."

Opening Line: "Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did."

My Take: A danged good book, though far better approached as a novel than as an accurate biography of the author's grandmother. Walls' describes Lily a wee bit too perfectly for my tastes (on the first page, she saves herself and two younger siblings from a flash flood by ordering them up a cottonwood tree and keeping the three of them talking and awake all night), but a few of her flaws do manage to come through, and she's a sufficiently likable and compelling character that this is slightly annoying but not fatal. (Besides, who doesn't create some sort of semi-mythical story about their grandparents?) I enjoyed the supporting characters, too -- especially Lily's strong but gentle (and no, that's not the cliche I make it sound like) husband, Jim. Certainly intrigued me enough to make me want to read The Glass Castle and see how Rosemary and eventually Jeannette turn out.

No comments:

Post a Comment