How can you read this and not compare it to The Glass Castle? Impossible. This “true life novel” has to stand next to Walls’ debut memoir, but it suffers because of it. I liked many parts, however, so let’s list the good things:
The book jacket says Half Broke Horses “is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults” and by coincidence I am deep into the Ingalls’ pioneering series with our youngest child. It was fun making the comparisons and seeing that other settlers lived in dugouts just like the Ingalls family and had similar struggles. I enjoyed reading about pioneering life during that time.
I think the pictures in Half Broke Horses are great and they are well positioned in the story. It really helps to see Lily and her family. The picture of Lily in 1934 really captures the spirit of her personality.
The story also has an easy flow and that makes it very readable.
I didn’t like everything about the presentation, however. It bothered me that Lily is portrayed as a gal with gumption who knows how to take a fall when what I see is someone who charges into things without thinking about the consequences, even when her reactions are violent. Are we supposed to admire this? In addition, she shows little connection to her family, particularly her children whom she regards as mere extras on the scene. But perhaps this disconnect with her children makes it easier to understand Rosemary’s troubles in The Glass Castle.
I was disappointed to see that, although Big Jim smartly points out to Lily that her repeated firings from teaching positions have started to look like a pattern, this insight comes and goes in an instant and is never mentioned again.
But the most important point here is that Lily never understands or appreciates Rosemary. And she makes no apologies. This is hard to understand or accept because it’s real life. Her only accurate comment is that Rosemary needs an anchor in a husband, but the advice comes too late.
It would have been nice to learn what happens once the author is born, but these years are only briefly mentioned. Perhaps that’s the next book…
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!