Thursday, February 16, 2012

recent reads

I try to keep a running list of books to read, and my local library in LA has a great "next book" section where the librarians pull their current recommendations. It's become my go-to when I don't have a checkout in mind, and I'm starting to feel like Elaine stalking Vincent in that one Seinfeld episode... Anyhow, that's how I came across Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls, which is worth a mention. If you haven't read The Glass Castle, do it (also, where were you in 2007 when EVERYONE read it? America does love a crazy mama memoir). However, though the writing style is similarly engaging, the two books are very different. Where Castle is shocking and provocative, Horses is a familiar story, one I found myself imagining my dad telling me.
Half Broke Horses is the story of Lily Casey Smith, the grandmother of Walls (and the mother of Rose Mary, the previously mentioned crazy mama), and the type of Annie Oakley hard-ass that I dreamed of becoming as a ten year old tomboy running around the backyard in bare feet.  The book has been compared to Little House on the Prairie more than once, and for good reason, but Little House always felt like an old-fashioned fairy tale to me, a broad sketch of a story. Horses is so specifically about one unbridled woman's life that the details of the ranch and the adventures through the southwest are just supporting, rather than taking center stage. It feels like a collection of short stories told over whiskey. It's particularly interesting to analyze Lily's hooch-selling airplane-flying back-talking panache knowing how her daughter's life will turn out - the book sort of acts as prequel to Walls' family life.
Read it, and find yourself referring to the next jerk you meet as a "crumb bum" and wishing for a Scarlett O'Hara dress made of drapes.

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