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Half Broke Horses - Book Club Guide

Updated on April 5, 2015
Virginia Allain profile image

A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.

Book Club Questions and Ideas

Jeannette Walls received great acclaim for her memoir Glass Castle about her own dysfunctional childhood. That was a hard act to follow, but she rose to the challenge with her second book Half Broke Horses.

Once again, book clubs across the country have a great selection for their discussions. Members find it an enjoyable read and lively discussion is sure to ensue over the adventurous life of Walls' grandmother, Lily Casey Smith.

I'm a retired librarian and a top 2000 reviewer for Amazon. Below you'll find my questions to spark discussions in your book group.

(photo courtesy of Amazon and the book is available below)

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Why This Book Appealed to Me

I've spent the last year or so researching my great-aunt's life. In trying to figure an approach to writing about her, I've read a lot of memoirs covering the same time period.

This book stood out from all the others. I despair of writing anything of this caliber, but it gives me inspiration.

My great-aunt, Bertha McGhee, was a teacher too and taught Indian children in New Mexico back in the 1920s.

(photo from my family album)

Half Broke Horses - By Jeannette Walls

With elements of Little House on the Prairie, add a dash of Amelia Earhart and the writing of the superb memoirist Jeannette Walls, this book enchants even those who don't like biographies. It's not a dry record of the author's grandmother, it's a "True-Life Novel."

You book discussion group will love it.

If you have a Kindle, you can request the sample which includes the first part of the book.

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I never knew a girl to have such gumption & I'm not too sure that's a good thing.

— Lily's mother

Eight Questions for a Book Discussion Group

To print this list, highlight it and then choose SELECTION when your printer asks what to print.

  1. Lily, the central character in the book, is Jeannette Walls grandmother. Choose a single word that you would use to sum up Lily.

    What made you choose that word?

  2. The book contains elements of biography, history and fiction. On the cover, it calls itself "a true-life novel." Which do you feel is the the best fit?
  3. Were there aspects of life in those times that surprised you? Would you make a good pioneer?
  4. Some might consider Lily a liberated woman. Discuss how the rules for women at that time shaped her life and how she sometimes made her own rules.
  5. How did different men change the course of her life?
  6. What appealed to you the most about the book and what aspect did you not like?
  7. Have you read any books that you would compare to this one? Which did you prefer?
  8. What was one of the saddest moments in the book for you? How about the happiest?

Author Interviews and Other Videos about the Book

Send the Video Links to Members of the Book Club

A Video Review of the Book

The Plot Summary for Half Broke Horses

It would happen, but it was up to us to make it happen.

— Lily (after rescuing her brother and sister from a flash flood)

Compare Jeannette Walls Other Books to Half Broke Horses

If you've read either or both of her other books, do you have a favorite? Tell what similarities and differences you found in the books.

How do you think Lily's life in Half Broke Horses set the stage for her daughter and granddaughter's lives in The Glass Castle?

The Book Trailer

Lily taught in country schools, so I wanted to include this picture in honor of that.


Zazzle photo on a postcard: One Room School Post Card by MAPASUE

© 2014 Virginia Allain

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    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      5 years ago

      What a very thought provoking article, Virginia. I loved Glass Castle and thought Half Broke Horses was good too. Jeanette Walls is a very good author and one I try to follow.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      You brought up some great questions for discussing this book. Walls' writing is so good that it should be required reading in schools! If more history were presented as she's done, more people would want to read. Can't wait to read your own true-life novel!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Vallain, thank you for sharing this book and I may have to read it. I've always loved stories from the past, and particularly stories about pioneer women. I've often wondered, if the women of today had to go through what they did then, how would they handle it?

    • topclimb lm profile image

      topclimb lm 

      5 years ago

      I really like your approach to this lens! I have never read from this author, I think I might...

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I plan on reading this book soon!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great review Virginia! I love Historical novels, I will add this to my queue! Sounds very intriguing!


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