CBR11 BINGO: Reading the TBR
This was a book that I received for CBR 10’s holiday book exchange (thanks again, kfishgirl). I read and reviewed Walls’ “Glass Houses” last year and loved it. I waited a bit to start this one because I am quickly going to run out of Jeannette Walls titles to read and I’m trying to drag it out a little. So, this one has been on my TBR pile since December 2018 and thus fulfills the “Reading the TBR” bingo slot!
While “Glass Castles” was a memoir written about Walls’ own life, “Half Broke Horses” is about her maternal grandmother. It’s a work of fiction; a “True-Life Novel” sewn together with bits and pieces about her grandmother’s life from stories and memories told to Walls by family members and friends. Only eight years old when her grandmother died, Walls had clearly still formed a connection with her. Judging by her portrayl in the book, it isn’t hard to see that Lily Casey Smith definitely made an impression on everyone who encountered her.
True to life, half true or mostly rewritten history, it really doesn’t matter to me. This book is quite the romp through history and the American South West (with a minor detour in Chicago). It spans from the early 1900’s to the early 1960’s through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, two world wars, and bouts of biblical weather.
No stranger to work, Lily Casey Smith was raised on various ranches; riding horses almost before she could walk and breaking them soon after. An adventurer to her core, she was also thoughtful and practical. A whip smart problem solver who, though she held many jobs, was always, in the end, an educator.
Having read about Lily’s daughter (Walls’ mother Rose in “Glass Castles”) it was interesting to see where she came from. At one point in the book, Lily says that the only person she was never able to teach was her daughter. Rose seems to have absorbed all of the free spirited adventure from Lily, but none of her pragmatism. Both, however, struggle with putting the needs of their children above their own.
The world that both Jeannette Walls and her mother grew up in is fascinating, often tragic and certainly a study on how your childhood shapes who you become. It is a world full of characters that I am often horrified by but always want to root for. With both “Glass Houses” and “Half Broke Horses”, there is an underlying sense of pride that Walls has for her family’s tenacity, intelligence and forward thinking. While how they care for each other (or neglect to) isn’t always healthy, Walls somehow manages to let the love they have for each other shine through.