Thursday, August 26, 2010

“Half Broke Horses”

Since this book is so popular I had to go on a personal quest to obtain it from the library. With 12 people ahead of me in line, and absolutely no space on my bookshelf to put another purchased novel, I approached the desk of the Reference Librarian Sheri. “Um, I see that there is a copy of “Half Broke Horses” on CD that is being repaired. And, uh, I wonder how soon it will be available,” I asked quietly (I was in the library). She didn’t know but she kindly escorted me into the mysterious, hidden, repair shop which was formerly the place to pay my city bills. “I remember I repaired it last week and it should be shelved,” said the highly skilled disk polisher Sherry (one of 3 or 4 Sherries working at the library). But no, it was not to be found on any shelf! “Let’s write a note to Ann. She will locate it or die trying. She can’t stand to have a mysterious disappearance of a library item.” She did locate the hidden treasure the next day and lent it to me while they await the arrival of a new disc #2 which just has a little skipping at the end. Hurray for the mighty librarians!

“Half Broke Horses” is a true-life novel written by Jeanette Walls. It is best read as a companion to “The Glass Castle” which is Walls’ best-selling memoir. The mostly non-fiction novel tells the story of the author’s grandmother Lilly Casey Smith born in a west Texas dugout in 1901. The narrative is most interesting to women readers who are fascinated by stories of tough western gals who roped and rode and raised their children to be resilient through flash floods and The Great Depression. Grandma Lilly had a survival philosophy of learning how to take a fall and get right back up. She suffered a broken arm while breaking horses as a little girl, started teaching during WWI at age 15, married and divorced a bigamist, put herself through college to get certified as a teacher, sold bootleg whiskey from under her baby’s crib to survive the depression, and endured the suicide of her only sister and tragic accidental death of her best friend.

As in all families, there are characters with a story to write. The Walls family had Grandma Lilly and she surely lived an interesting life of adventure. Lilly gives birth to her “half-broke” daughter Rosemary who will become the neglectful mother of the author. I wished sometimes that there was a little less hard-life philosophy and little more love and affection expressed by these generations of women, but it certainly did explain the flawed characters in “The Glass Castle”.

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