By Jeannette Walls Genre: Memoir
Reviewed by Natalie 5/5 stars
Jeannette Walls’ second book Half Broke Horses opens with a riveting scene nearly ending in the death of the book’s heroine. Lily Casey Smith, Walls’ grandmother, saves herself and her siblings from almost certain death in a flash flood. This level-headed, quick thinking characterizes the story of Lily’s life from her birth to Walls’ own birth. Lily Casey Smith grew up in a dugout in west Texas, breaking horses to drive carriages for the wealthy. Her family relied on her, but Lily longed for something more.
“You can’t prepare for everything life’s going to throw at you. And you can’t avoid danger. It’s there. The world is a dangerous place, and if you sit around wringing your hands about it, you’ll miss out on all the adventure.”
And she never did miss out on adventure. Lily left the family ranch to teach in Arizona, worked briefly as a maid in Chicago, and, after some misadventure, returned to Arizona and resumed teaching until she met and married Jim Smith. She and her husband ran a ranch for several years, and Walls includes several stories from those years.
The most interesting part of Lily’s story for me was when she and Jim moved their family to Phoenix, AZ. I read this book after just a few months of living in the Valley of the Sun, and it was interesting to read about early Phoenix. Apparently it was hot and dry and covered in pavement back then too.
Lily was a woman who seized opportunity. She broke mustangs, took driving lessons when few women could drive, and learned to fly a plane. Rather than a dry, factual book about the Old West, Walls weaves together the stories from her grandmother’s life to create a work that reads like a novel and leaves the reader with the desire to live real life adventures too.
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