Half Broke Horses is the story of Lily Casey Smith, a woman who grew up in rural Oklahoma during the Great Depression and rose to national prominence as an equestrian, World War II radio operator, businesswoman, and high-stakes gambler. She was a character who would come out of any novel: tough, charismatic, foulmouthed and funny. Yet this portrait of the American West is based on fact: Walls has spent years researching and interviewing her grandmother’s stories.
Half Broke Horses is Jeannette Walls’s story of her grandmother Lily Casey Smith, told in a first-person voice that is authentic, irresistible, and triumphant. The illegitimate daughter of a poor Texas rancher and his Hispanic mistress, Lily Casey Smith, runs away from home at age fourteen after witnessing her mother murdered by a man cheating her. Young, strong-willed, and fiercely determined to make her way in the world, she learns how to survive hardscrabble life on the borderlands of Texas and Oklahoma with humor and wit. She marries three times but refuses to live in poverty: at sixteen, she has a daughter out of wedlock; at seventeen, she goes to work as a cowboy; at eighteen, she starts her ranch–a wild horse ranch–that she rules over with an iron fist even as she rules over herself with compassion.
A breathtaking saga of love and resilience from the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir The Glass Castle. In Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls tells the story of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith–an indomitable woman who defied her father’s orders when she ran away at sixteen to marry a much older horse trader during the Depression, becoming one of the few female jockeys in American history. Inspiring and unforgettable, this intimate portrait demonstrates how one woman can set out to make her way in a world that offers few choices.
About Half Broke Horses Book
Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle was “nothing short of spectacular” (Entertainment Weekly). Now, in Half Broke Horses, she brings us the story of her grandmother, told in a first-person voice that is authentic, irresistible, and triumphant.
“Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls’s no-nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town — riding five hundred miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car (“I loved cars even more than I loved horses. They didn’t need to be fed if they weren’t working, and they didn’t leave big piles of manure all over the place”) and fly a plane. And, with her husband Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.
Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn’t fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix audiences everywhere.