Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Musings and "Half Broke Horses"

I don't know what it is about fall that incites furious reading in me. Is it the general warm feeling that falling leaves brings? The fact that school is in session? Maybe it's the apples. Whatever it is, I find fall to be the most satisfying reading weather. It doesn't make me feel bad to go to bed early with the window slightly open to the cool night in my soft sheets and delve into a book and forget my life for a while. So, even though I don't really have time for it, in the past 2 and a half weeks, I've read four books. I suppose that I should feel bad about that fact since I'm sure that my school work is suffering, but I can't help it--it's a disease. Don't blame me for it.

I've been agonizing on how to organize this blog so that it's most efficient and easiest to use (blame the Library and Information Science degree-in-process), but I think that I'll just wing it. The last book that I read was Jeannette Walls' new book Half Broke Horses which I had been really looking forward to. Walls was at the National Book Festival in DC this year (which was fabulous besides the rain) and she was one of the most engaging people that I have heard speak. In case you don't know, Jeannette Walls is the author of the memoir The Glass Castle which is the true story of her life growing up living on the streets with her family who moved around the country aimlessly and rootlessly and often homelessly. Her story is very inspiring, and if you haven't read The Glass Castle, it should certainly be on your "to read" list. It's a great book for discussion, so if you have a book club or a school group that needs a book, The Glass Castle might be a consideration.

In Half Broke Horses, Walls tells the story of her Grandmother Lily Casey Smith. Originally, the book was going to be about her mother whose life is certainly interesting and you get a glimpse of that life in both The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, but when Walls was interviewing her mother, she insisted that Lily's story was better than her own. Written as a "True Life Story," Walls has taken liberty with her grandmother's life, which was necessary since her grandmother is dead and her mother's stories could not always be corroborated. The novel is told in the first person by Lily, and follows her from her poor childhood in the West where she was taught how to break horses and work on a ranch with her family to her experiences in teaching and the joy that she got from it to the birth of her children and grandchildren. Lily's life is fascinated, and it really gives perspective to a woman in an age where it was never a question whether or not we could go to school or be anything we want to. Lily has to fight hard for her life to be what she wants, and her fights are admirable. Possibly the most endearing part of the novel is in the fact that Walls recognizes that Lily was not a perfect, but a human who was trying to do the best she could for her family. This message comes clear when Lily decides not to tell her daughter that she is beautiful, even though she thinks so. Even though it seems that Rosemary (Walls' mother) needs to hear something of that sort, Lily feels that it will toughen her up if compliments aren't paid in that respect. Not only is Lily's story fascinating, but the history that you get about the early West and the "livin' off the land" kind of life that was the only way to survive is eye opening.

A great thing about Walls' two books as well is the fact that the chapters are short and separated, which makes for easy reading, and her prose is clear and concise rather than muddied with metaphors and symbols--Walls can tell a good story.

You'll probably like Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls if you liked:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
...And vice versa. :)

I hope that your fall is allowing you to devour books shamelessly just like me!

Next on the pile: What Else But Home by Michael Rosen

Happy Reading!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Maybe it's sad, but I didn't even read the part about what's in the books, but I liked the first paragraph! <3 <3

  3. that's me, Katie btw ;)