The best thing about flying?  Clearly, the peanuts.  Oh, wait … not anymore.  I can’t ever remember if it was 9/11 or that widespread allergy kids seems to have to peanuts nowadays, or maybe just the economy, but it’s been a while since I got a pack of honey roasted peanuts en route from Salt Lake to Atlanta.  Or maybe I just grew up and realized that the peanuts are okay, but that the uninterrupted time to read is the best part of flying.  Sure, I get frustrated and wish I could get on my Blackberry to answer emails, work on my “to do” list in Google docs, and update my Facebook status.  But really, not having internet access is a blessing on a flight, for me.  I love to read but sometimes need a forced disconnection to dive into a new book.

On the way home from California, I started (and finished, of course, as y’all know from my ramblings on Girls in Trucks) Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls.  I’d read her memoir, The Glass Castle, a while back, and knew the author’s voice to be clear and true.  No disappointments – I would say that I enjoyed Half Broke Horses a good bit more than The Glass Castle, actually.  Where The Glass Castle tells of Walls’ bruised childhood, Half Broke Horses is Walls’ maternal grandmother’s story.  Those readers who’ve read The Glass Castle get the chance to be armchair psychologists with this inner glance into Walls’ mother’s mother’s world, and why she happened to raise her daughter in such a fashion that her daughter would go on to raise Walls in a manner that would spawn best selling books.

However, Half Broke Horses is by no means a prequel to The Glass House.  It stands straight and true on its own two feet.  I loved the story of Lilly Casey Smith, a gal raised to do for herself.  Over her lifetime, she breaks mustangs, teaches Mormon children about suffrage, learns to pilot airplanes, drives hearses with no brakes, lives on farms and ranches, in towns and cities, marries men, has children, buries those she loves.  She takes more than one hoof to the face, always rising again to meet life’s next challenge.  She is an indomitable woman, with the spirit of a half broke horse, though she is more likely to characterize the other characters in this story as half broke horses.  She seems to see herself as an ordinary, grounded woman doing the very best she can during the Great Depression, though hers is no ordinary life.  I was reminded of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books – there are parts of Half Broke Horses that bring those stories to mind, but with a much darker, and more realistic, back story.

Walls’s author’s notes indicates that this story of her grandmother is more an oral history than a researched history, and that she cannot be certain of all the names and dates, and has changed some facts to protect privacy – I feel certain some lawyer made her add this note.  What matters about this story, as with all stories, is not whether it is true, but whether you can see pieces of yourself, the bad and the good, in its telling.  I recommend Half Broke Horses.

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