Review of Jeannette Walls', "Half Broke Horses"

Review of Jeannette Walls’, “Half Broke Horses”
by Travis Catsull

Last year my favorite book was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls so when she released her 2nd book, Half Broke Horses I purchased it the day it was released in hardback. The Glass Castle was an amazing read and is a great American novel without question. The devastating ending and absolute truth is as powerful as they come. Jeannette’s childhood is shocking and beautiful as any work of fiction. In fact, I was so taken with The Glass Castle I wrote to Jeannette and asked her if I could purchase a painting by her mother. Jeannette responded by saying my request was “sweet” and I never heard anything about it again.
More importantly, Jeannette continues the journey in Half Broke Horses by telling the story of her grandmother’s life story. Through the exploits of Lily Casey — mustang breaker, schoolteacher,  ranch wife, bootlegger, poker player, racehorse rider and  mother of two — Walls remembers the adrenaline-­fueled frontier  background that gave her own mother a taste for adventure.  This helps to put her first book into perspective and explain why her childhood was so insanely dramatic.
If I had a choice I would have read Half Broke Horses first and then The Glass Castle. Actually, if they were combined into one book, I’d be pleased with that as well even though this would start the story much slower, saner, believable and eventually spellbind us by the tragic genius of Rex Walls, Jeannette’s father. Half Broke Horses ends with the introduction of Rex who is by far one of the best characters I’ve ever had the chance to read about.  Better yet, he was a real person and we’re reading true events that actually happened. Although The Glass Castle is 100% non-fiction, Walls admits in the prologue of Half Broke Horses that she had to use her imagination to fill in some of the gaps that she, her mother, her relatives can’t quite recall. I didn’t mind that at all.
Many times I’ll finish a book and feel as though I’ve wasted my time. Even though Wall’s latest work isn’t the best book I’ve read this year, it’s still an easy, interesting read, but I don’t feel it can stand on its own legs if you haven’t read her first book. Morever, I have no idea where Jeannette will go from here. I can only image it will be pure fiction unless she continues through her heritage and tells the story of her great-grandmother.
Overall, her story is an amazing one and I’m happy she shared it with the world. At the same time, I’m saddened there will no more to tell and if there is, it just won’t be as dynamic or amazing as these. This leads me to believe that most authors are only capable of one truly great book and Harper Lee was right to stop when she did. Though who wouldn’t like to write one amazing book? If I could write one great book in my lifetime and it was either of these two titles Jeannette produced I’d be extremely happy.
Here’s a quick video about Jeannette’s first book and the sole reason I contacted Jeannette about buying a painting from her mother:

0 thoughts on “Review of Jeannette Walls', "Half Broke Horses"

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  2. I have just finished ” The Glass Castle” after waiting a long time to get it from the library. It was recommended by a former colleague and I was stunned by it. The children were survivors regardless if you feel that they were abusedand neglected or if their childhood was responsible for their learning gleaned from their father and their environment.It was a very well written book with remarkable details of a ” memorable” childhood,I’ll now look for the prequel .

  3. When I finished reading ‘The Glass Castle’,I was in a Red Line train in Chicago. I felt like a balloon had blown out in my throat. I couldn’t hide the hot tears that made their way down from my eyes…I was like, “Man, has Rex died ? Is she kidding ?”, “Then, does Jeannette know what happen to the jailed bully, Dinitia Hewitt ?”, “Had she tracked back Erny Goad ?”, ” What about uncle Stanley and his obcenities?”, “Did the Walls help their little girl get back into normalcy ?” …
    Thank You Jeannette for your Amazing Story.

    1. While visiting Chicago, just last week, to attend the national ACDA Conference, I borrowed a copy “The Glass Castle” from a friend to pass the time while flying. I found myself completly absorbed in the everyday drama of the Walls family and clearly able to pluck out memories of my own childhood. I rode the Blue Line several times during my stay in Chicago, but dared not bring “The Glass Castle” with me, for fear of missing my stop.
      Two thougts come to mind. Words,so simply strung together can deliver such a beautiful and powerful story and we just never know where the events of our lives will take us. There is always a bigger picture!

  4. All I can say is that I loved the read, very glad that it was recommended. Many times my mouth was gaping open and could not believe what was being told, my childhood was not idelic but after reading the Glass Casle I shall never feel neglgeted again.Many questions as to how this could possibly hapen, you kept it very suspensfull and yet so sad!!!!!!

  5. El Castillo de Cristal ha pasado a ser mi libro favorito. Me siento muy identificada con la escritora y recuerdo que cuando empecé a leer el libro (hace ya un par de años)no pude dejarlo hasta que lo terminé y lloré, lloré muchísimo y me reí también muchísimo, creo que despertó muchos sentimientos en mi. Se lo recomiendo a todo el mundo, es una historia preciosa contada de una manera espectacular!!!

  6. Well of course she didn’t respond to you – her mother was an abusive, narcissistic, dangerous woman who continually put her own children at risk – it’s not a charming story. I think you missed the entire point. The Glass Castle wasn’t a novel, it was a memoir.

    1. Here’s my response to your comment:
      “Well of course she didn’t respond to you – her mother was an abusive, narcissistic, dangerous woman who continually put her own children at risk – it’s not a charming story.”
      A: She did respond to me. I noted her response in the review. I thought it was a wonderfully charming story.
      “I think you missed the entire point.”
      A: I think I didn’t.
      “The Glass Castle wasn’t a novel, it was a memoir.”
      A: On the cover of the book it reads, “True Life Novel”. Please read more about how this book was written.

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