To be read with: 2 oz of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, done as a shot as you lay they final cards that win the high-stakes poker hand.
Half Broke Horses is the follow up novel to The Glass Castle and follows the wild life of Jeannette Walls’ grandmother Lily Casey Smith. It’s a 180 degree difference in the source material and narrative voice, but it is every bit as entertaining and enthralling. The novel exudes a smooth rural tone, not unlike the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey I’ve recommended as an accompanying drink. The story follows Lily through the First World War, prohibition and the industrializing of cities across America.
The narrative voice of this novel is completely different from that of Walls’ other work. This is fantastic because it really sets the personality of Lily for the reader. She is a hard talking, hard working girl from the cattle ranch that feels too big for the small towns, and a little too small for the big cities. She breaks horses, teaches school, and eventually flies planes. She is true to herself and is really unconcerned to whether this will piss some people of. This book is not per se a memoir, as Walls’ grandmother died when she was eight, so these stories are taken from secondhand accounts and historical records.
The real life characters in this book are colourful representations of every walk of life, and Walls does a great job of setting the tone of the 1930’s through 1950’s. The interests covered in this book are expansive and I feel that they would hook a lot of people for different reasons. This book is upbeat and a page turner but there are also moments that break your heart and make you consider what it means to be a good mother, father, sibling, neighbour. The reader may look at these parts and consider them to be unlearned or socially uncouth, but there will be a time where someone is reading about our time and thinking the same thing.
For the fans of The Glass Castle there is a section at the end that delves into the life of Jeannette Walls’ mother, and her early life. You get an inside peek of the beginning, how Rosemary and Rex met, and foreshadowing of what life would be like for their children.
I really enjoyed this book. It had such a strong narrative voice, excellently drawn characters who were colourful but still full of human flaw. Historically, and on the personal level of this family, the book was intriguing. I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of memoirs, or fans of Idgie Threadgoode/Fried Green Tomatoes type heroines.