Friday, January 01, 2010

On the Bookshelf: Half Broke Horses A True-Life Novel

As I was perusing books to read on my Kindle I came across Half Broke Hoses, A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls. (You can download this book from Amazon for your Kindle or buy it in book form from any number of bookstores).

I had read Jeannette's other book entitled The Glass Castle which is a remembrance of her life growing up with parents who were quite eccentric and raised their children with a nomadic, often homeless, impoverished life. Half Broke Horses chronicles her maternal grandmother's life. However, instead of basing the tale on research, her grandmother died when she was 8 years old, she uses her mother's oral history of her grandmother's life as the basis for the book.

While I hungered for a bibliography and endnotes, since I am weird and enjoy those parts of a book, this is a novelized account of her grandmother's life, and what a life it was. Having read The Glass Castle and not understanding why her parent's were the way they were, Half Broke Horses gives you that aha moment and really shows how many traits are inherited. We are truly the sum of those who come before us.

I'm not going to provide too much information about the book. It's a great book, one you want to just sit and read in a day or so. I like the idea of taking those family stories and weaving a novel together. What a great way to learn about your family history.

Wall's grandmother was a true trailblazer, she taught school starting at 15 years of age and she rode her horse, by herself across New Mexico and Arizona to her first job. Can you imagine letting your 15 year old daughter ride across 2 states,it took her about 20 days, with some money, a bedroll and a gun by herself? (This was in the early 1900's). She later travels to Chicago by herself and works as a domestic. Later traveling back to Arizona she becomes a school teacher again and marries Jim Smith, a son of Mormon pioneer Lot Smith.

Though I wish there was more genealogy research used in writing this book, she did refer to a family history book and a book about Lot Smith to confirm some details, it is a great example of what you can do with those family stories.

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