Half Broke Horses – Book Review

Although I like to think of myself as a history nerd, I generally avoid non-fiction books unless they are about World War II or famous, influential people (if I’m not interested in the subject, a non-fiction book can be quite boring). However, Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls promotes itself as a true-life novel and it does not disappoint since this book read as a fast paced novel and I found it difficult to put down.

One line sums up this book for me:  “I became known as Lily Casey, the mustang-breaking, poker-playing, horse-race-winning schoolmarm of Coconino County, and it wasn’t half bad to be in a place where no one had a problem with a woman having a moniker like that.”

This book, about the author’s grandmother, was an intriguing look into the life of a strong woman living in the Southwest on a ranch during the early twentieth century. It took me on an adventure through Lily’s childhood in New Mexico, her twenties in Chicago and the rest of her life in Arizona. This book covered a variety of topics including the effects of the industrial revolution in Chicago, life during World War I and World War II, the introduction of the automobile, the airplane, and city life as seen through the eyes of a family that spent years on a ranch on hundreds of acres of land. The first chapter immediately relates the story of a young Ms. Casey saving herself and two siblings from a powerful flash flood in Texas by staying awake all night in a tree. From that point on I was intrigued by the life’s story being told within those pages.

I highly recommend this book as a way to experience life in the early twentieth century without all of our modern conveniences and gain an appreciation of the hard life on a ranch in the desert.

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