Half Broke Horses

Half Broke Horses

A True-Life Novel

  • reading group guide
  • bestseller
  • freshman reading
Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle was "nothing short of spectacular" (Entertainment Weekly). Now she brings us the story of her grandmother -- told in a voice so authentic and compelling that the book is destined to become an instant classic.

"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls's magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hard working, 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, all alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car ("I loved cars 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, 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. 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.
  • Scribner | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439160534 | 
  • October 2009
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Jeannette Walls Never Truly Escaped Her PAst

Jeannette Walls comes to terms with who she was and confronts her past in HALF BROKE HORSES and THE GLASS CASTLE.

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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Half Broke Horses includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Jeannette Walls’s grandmother Lily Casey Smith is the kind of woman who built this country: resourceful, hardworking, and smart. Full of spunk and with a strong will to do whatever she puts her mind to, she can break a wild horse by the time she is six years old. At age fifteen, she leaves home to teach in a frontier town, riding five hundred miles across New Mexico with nothing but her pony for company and her pearl-handled revolver for protection. She tries living and working in Chicago, where she meets her first husband, but betrayal and loss soon drive her back to ranch life—caring for livestock and respecting the land are what she does best. Together, she and her second husband manage a 180,000-acre ranch and Lily uses her incredible pluck and ingenuity to supplement their meager income. They raise two children, one of whom is Jeannette Walls’s mother, Rosemary Smith Walls. With little more than Lily’s resourcefulness to guide the way, the famil see more

Articles About This Book

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Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Brianne Sperber

Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls’s “true-life” novel based on the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, is called “Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults” on the flap copy. For someone who loved reading Little House on the Prairie, I can say that...

About the Author

Jeannette Walls
Photograph by John Taylor

Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times bestseller for more than six years. She is also the author of the instant New York Times bestsellers, The Silver Star and Half Broke Horses, which was named one of the ten best books of 2009 by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.

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