Posts Tagged ‘jeannette walls’

Half Broke Horses is the second book by Jeannette Walls (the first being The Glass Castle, also one of my favourite books). It follows the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith as she lives through her many adventures in the American mid-west. Lily’s life consisted of flash floods, tornadoes, droughts, and a heart breaking family tragedy just to name a few events.

This is the first book that I couldn’t put down in a long time. I was so engrossed while reading that I missed my stop on the subway while on my way to work! That hasn’t happened to me in years. That’s how I know I’m reading an excellent book: when reality ceases to exist and it’s just you and the story.

The prose is excellently written in the voice of Lily Casey Smith herself. The chapters are short enough that it feels like every time you read one it’s like Lily herself was sitting in your kitchen and you were just “shooting the breeze” with her over some hot cups of coffee. That’s just the way I like it. I find that if a chapter is too long I get bored half way through. I prefer short bursts of action and then long chapters for events that warrant one. Short chapters also make it easier to read because I don’t have to push myself to finish a chapter if I’m reading right before bed (I have this weird thing where I can’t stop reading a book half way through a chapter before I go to bed but if I’m on the bus or something then that’s okay).

Similar to The Glass Castle, the message of the book is good old hard work coupled with some personal resilience and integrity leads to a happy and fulfilling life. Lily is never fazed by any of the setbacks she faces. And trust me, she faced some pretty bad setbacks. Even when her dad failed to pay her second year tuition and bought dogs (to breed) instead, she accepted it because it was done already and there was no use to crying over spilt milk. She was 13 at the time I think. I hate to admit it but if that happened to me at 13 I probably would have cried for the whole week.

A couple of parts that stuck with me about the book is includes some lessons that her dad taught her. Lily’s dad was very well read and always had these philosophies and ideas floating around in his head. One of those theories was the Theory of Purpose. He told her that everyone has a purpose in life and if something doesn’t work out then it wasn’t your purpose. Once you find your Purpose things will begin to fall into place. It’s so simple and yet it’s something that everyone should live by.

Lily’s dad trained carriage horses for a living and he recruited her to break them in at the tender age of 5. On one occasion she got thrown by a horse and she tried to break her fall with her arms. The result was a nasty break that left her bone sticking out and Lily howling from the pain (as anyone would!). After setting the broken arm and bandaging her up Lily’s dad sat her down and told her that she should never try to break a fall and let her body move the way it’s supposed to. He says “once you’re going down, accept it and let your rump take the punishment. Your body knows how to fall” (pg. 22). This lesson can be applied to life. My interpretation of it is when you find yourself in an exceptionally dire situation that is inevitable, you should just let things run their course (i.e. “fall”). The more you try to stop the events from happening the worse you are going to make it for yourself.

Half Broke Horses is a book filled with life lessons that also make you chuckle from time to time. The protagonist Lily Casey Smith is a woman with lots of integrity and someone I would admire if I had known her personally. I finished the 270 page book in 2 days and by no means am I a fast reader. It’s a good book!

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