"Great Insight into Family Dynamics"
When my book club chose this book, I wasn't very pleased. We'd read Jeannette Wall's memoir The Glass Castle and her mother's horrible parenting infuriated me. Therefore, I wasn't sure I wanted to read the story about Jeannette's maternal grandmother Lily in "Half Broke Horses". I thought it would be depressing and disheartening.
Boy was I wrong! Lily Casey Smith's life was fascinating. She grew up in the Southwest desert in the 1920's, and the story begins with her saving her younger siblings from a flash flood by clambering up a tree with them. Life was really
hard back then, and I could see that Lily did the absolute best she could in all respects, including parenting her willful daughter Rosemary (Jeannette's mother). In fact, Lily was extremely resourceful, strong, and funny, and these traits endeared her to me.
Here are some of my favorite quotes, told from Lily's perspective:"A lady's hair is her crowning glory," my mom said, and she was always going on about how my widow's peak was my best feature, but when I looked in the mirror, that little V of hair at the top of my forehead didn't seem like much to bank on.
Lily's father is a total character, so vividly described. Dad was working on a book arguing the case for phonetic spelling. He called it "A Ghoti out of Water". "Ghoti," he liked to point out, could be pronounced like "fish". The "gh" had the "f" sound in "enough", the "o" had the short "i" sound in "women", and "ti" had the "sh" sound in "nation".
(p. 35)Mom also hinted a couple of times that it was good I was going on to college since with one failed marriage behind me, I'd have trouble landing a good husband and would need something to fall back on. "A package that's been opened once doesn't have the same appeal," she said.
I loved Big Jim. "That was quite a tumble you took," he said. His voice was deep, like he was speaking from inside a bass fiddle.
I truly enjoyed learning some American history and getting to know Jeannette's family tree. She should be proud of her roots.