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Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel Paperback – September 7, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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 megaselling 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Originally conceived as a biography based on family interviews and historical research, Walls found herself filling in too many blanks for Half Broke Horses to remain a work of nonfiction, so she assumed Smith's indomitable voice and set out to write a novelistic recreation of Smith's unconventional life. Most critics were captivated by Smith's earthy, straightforward style, despite the steady stream of repetitive axioms intermingled with her antics. Only the Washington Post seemed thoroughly disappointed, lamenting that "this book is no Glass Castle." Though Smith, "a gumption-packin' ranch gal whose pluck never quits" (New York Times), may not rise to the intensity of Walls's troubled, nomadic parents, Half Broke Horses nevertheless tells the heartwarming story of an irrepressible woman who carved her own destiny. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top customer reviews
At the same time (and this is where her story-telling skill goes to work) these chapters somehow retain the effortless charm of unpremeditated vignettes. Somehow, the chapter-ending surprises don't come off as the predictable cliff-hangers we expect to see engineered into plots, leading us (nudge, nudge) to anticipate certain resolution. This true life novel has the irresolute pace of true life...even as seemingly small details quietly accumulate with freighted force.
Caveat Quibbler (which most of us, to some extent, are): As a reporter, I often hear creative non-fiction knocked as inherently flawed -- in a publishing world plagued with fake quotes and larger fraud, the last thing we need is getting 'creative' with reality. Social scientists and historians are especially prone to this critique -- and thus they write accounts which are often, and exceptionally, flat. For me, the answer is non-fiction novels which never invent a thing, but use many techniques of fiction -- especially closely observed detail and character development from which plot may emerge.Rwanda Means the Universe: A Native's Memoir of Blood and BloodlinesExcept in close and constant partnership with a 'true life' narrator, I would never do what Walls does, narrating this book in the voice of somebody she isn't.
But that may be largely to satisfy the quibblers. Walls never tries to disguise the liberties she takes, and I had no problem with them, especially given her intimate, closely researched connection to the book's homely subject. In fact I loved it; the impact was much larger than homely.