Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle (reread) by Jeannette Walls

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In her memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls tells the story of her neglected childhood, from her father (who is usually drunk) to her mother who is (I believe) mentally ill. With her obvious inner strength and intelligence, Ms Walls rises above poverty and discrimination to become a successful writer.

Lily Casey Smith, the protagonist in Walls’ fictionalized memoir of her grandmother called Half Broke Horses, is likewise fantastic. She shows what sterner stuff the Walls children must have been made of and the inherited strength and ability that Jeannette had going for her.

I really enjoyed reading The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses back-to-back because both showed how determination and ability can help one through difficult situations. Although Lily Casey Smith did not suffer from such dire poverty as Jeannette did, she did face emotional and trying situations.

Also, as I reread The Glass Castle, I was struck this time by some of the positive things Rose Mary and Rex did for their children. There is no doubt that Jeannette and her siblings had a neglected childhood in the midst of dire poverty. Yet, Rose Mary and Rex were full of creativity. They challenged their children beyond their abilities, such as requiring Jeannette to do her first grade math in binary. Although in Jeannette’s teen years Rex was drunk more often, during her early childhood years, he played games with her to help her dispense with her fears, to not become attached to things, and to be independent and self-sufficient.

Lily likewise was a great example as she taught the people in various communities what they needed to learn, not letting herself be intimidated with those who tried to bully her. From the first scene in her story, where she’s saving herself and her sister from the flash floods, I loved Lily’s strength.

The Glass Castle is a book I’ve read a few times in the past and I read through Half Broke Horses quickly simply for fun,  so I’ll keep my thoughts brief. I don’t have much to say about the two books this time around, other than I loved them. I know I’ll revisit both of them again in the future, especially when I want a reminder of what it means to be strong in the face of adversity.

Reviewed on June 30, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I really enjoyed The Glass Castle, and when I taught it to my seniors this last semester, they really loved it as well. For them, being mainly white, upper-middle-class kids with no worries, they were constantly shocked by some of the nastier things that happened in the book. But we had some long discussions about parenting and the choices Rex and Mary made for their children. It was such a great book for that kind of discussion, and for the group I was teaching, it made a heavy impact.

    I haven’t read the other title, and I keep meaning to grab a copy when I stop at the bookstore. Eventually. 🙂

    Oh, thank you for the long list of recommendations! I am going to pull them all out later on this afternoon! 🙂

    • Pam (@iwriteinbooks) » although the situations are very tough, Walls (in GLASS CASTLE) manages to tell it without any pity. It’s a little emotional, but not manipulative.

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