Thursday, November 26, 2009

Half Broke Horses

Last night I started Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, not sure what to anticipate. I absolutely raved about Glass Castle, Walls' memoir of her bizarre childhood with her unconventional parents. It amazed me that Walls and her siblings made it through their childhood to become productive citizens; Glass Castle was hard to put down.

Months ago I saw Half Broke Horses in a Booking Ahead publication from Baker and Taylor. The book was categorized as a novel, which made me somewhat skeptical. I didn't doubt Walls' writing ability, just the idea that a novel could even touch Glass Castle. When I read a bit more and discovered that actually Half Broke Horses is a fictionalized version of her own grandmother's life I was interested in why the book is considered fiction and how Wells would pull this off.

Walls writes in her notes at book's end that this book is really a collection of the stories she has heard about her grandmother during her lifetime, and the knowledge and recollections she has of her grandmother who passed away when Walls was only eight. The book is considered a novel because she had to create conversations and details that there is no record of. (This honest approach is something that perhaps the author of A Million Little Pieces should have tried).

Walls' grandmother is quite a character. The entire book kept me laughing wondering what new idea Lily Casey Smith would dream up. From running her parents' ranch while still a child herself, to leaving home at fifteen to ride a horse to a remote teaching position, then moving to Chicago where she knew no one, Lily Casey Smith was an amazing woman. She also shed light on Walls' mother, Rosemary. I found her accounts of Rosemary especially interesting, giving a little more background as to how Rosemary was brought up, and what possibly led her to her unconventional life.

This was a wonderful read. Walls' second book is just as good as her first and one that I will be recommending to everyone.

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