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novel is tells the story of the author’s
grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her
father break horses. At fifteen, she left
home to teach in a frontier town — riding
five hundred miles on her pony, all alone, to
get to her job. She learned to drive a car
and fly a plane, and, with her husband, ran a
vast ranch in
. She raised two children, one of whom is
Jeannette's memorable mother, Rosemary Smith
Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The
Glass Castle. Lily
survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the
Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking
personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice
of all kinds — against women, Native
Americans, and anyone else who didn't fit the
calls Half Broke Horses a
“true life novel.” In her author’s
note, she explains why.
Do you think you are closer to
Lily because you get her story in her own
is your response to the first person
voice of the book? What do you think of
the “true life” genre?
comes off as tough and resilient, but
there are moments in this book of vast
heartbreak, where you see her façade
crack. How does the author handle the
death of Lily’s friend in
? Her first husband’s duplicity? Her
sister’s suicide? Her suspicions of her
Lily’s father dies, Rosemary is
embarrassed to be seen driving with a
What does Lily’s reaction to
this behavior show about her character?
What effect do you think her mother’s
attitude had on Rosemary?
Helen’s suicide, Lily says, “When
people kill themselves, they think
they’re ending the pain, but all
they're doing is passing it on to those
they leave behind.”
Do you agree with this statement?
more than one occasion, Lily is fired
from a teaching position for refusing to
back down from what she believes in. Do
you applaud Lily’s moral conviction in
these instances? Or did you hope that
Lily would learn to compromise?
has high expectations for her children,
from sending them off to boarding school
despite their protests to enforcing
strict rules for keeping animals as pets.
Are Lily’s expectations of her
children particularly high or rather a
reflection of the times?
Lily’s husband Jim. How does his
personality complement her strong nature?
Lily’s relationship with her daughter,
Rosemary, and, in The Glass
Rosemary’s relationship with Jeannette.
How does each generation try to
compensate for the one before? How does
each mother try to avoid the mistakes or
pain imposed upon her by her own mother?
Broke Horses is
said to be Laura Ingalls Wilder for
adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak
of Africa or Beryl
with the Night.