** Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (2009)

half broke horsesBook Review: I’m intrigued by the words “true-life novel” on the cover of this book.  I get that it’s a novel that’s based on Walls’s grandmother’s life, yet I’ve never actually seen an author proclaim a novel to be true-life.  New labels seem to emerge all the time.  Recently it was “creative non-fiction.”   Makes me ponder the idea of truth: is true-life novel more “true” than creative non-fiction or is it actually “less true” because it uses the word ‘novel.’  Well, at any rate, I liked the story.  Not nearly as outrageous as The Glass Castle, and more ‘matter of fact’ reporting than story-telling.  Wall’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith,  grew up on a ranches in Texas and Arizona, she spent several years as a city girl in Chicago, she taught school in a number of tiny one-room school towns, for a few years she lived in early blossoming Phoenix, and finally, ended up in a tiny town of 13 families called Horse Mesa.  Her life was not an easy one, but with gumption, discipline, and a lot of hard work, she turned many of her experiences into milestones.  She had a happy second marriage and raised two kids.  Lily’s dad reminded me much of Wall’s dad whom we meet in The Glass Castle, and Lily seems clearly much like Walls (and she discloses that she and her grandmother were a lot alike whereas the middle generation–her mom–was quite different).  Often, the trouble I had with this likeness is that the book’s voice is Lily’s, but I couldn’t quite accept that it wasn’t Walls herself.  I’m not sure if that’s a result of getting to know her voice in Glass Castle or if it’s just that writing in first person from Lily’s point of view didn’t quite work.  Maybe it’s the writing, maybe it’s me.  Anyway, I like it.  I’m always fascinated by life on the prairie, range, ranch, the West–regardless of the actual land form, these stories take me in.   (fiction–but true life!)

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