by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls’ first book, The Glass Castle, was the best book I read last summer. While that book detailed her life on the road with a pair of nomads as parents, this book told the incredible story of her maternal grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, as she grew up in the tough terrain of the old west.
Lily Casey Smith was quite a woman. She could ride horses better than any man, teach any child who entered her classroom, and at a time and place when the tough terrain of the west could kill you at any moment, from sudden flash floods to lightning strikes to horrible droughts, she alone saved her family on several occasions. She is the sort of strong woman that anyone can appreciate these days, but few could really understand back then. Life threw many hardships her way, and she overcame them all with a fierce spirit that is simply inspirational.
The chapters in this book aren’t really chapters. The book is composed of short but continuous stories that span the length of Lily Casey’s life, from when she was a young girl living on her parents ranch to the day she married off her daughter, Rosemary (Walls’ mother). While biographical, Walls wrote this book based on family stories passed down to her, mainly from her mother, which is why this book is listed as a “true-life novel” instead of a “biography.” After reading The Glass Castle, I found it interesting to see how Rosemary’s childhood contributed to the kind of woman (and more importantly, mother) that she turned out to be. In a way, I felt like Walls’ was trying to justify her mother’s dismal parenting skills by showing the kind of woman she was raised by. While it was very, very interesting to compare the two books, I don’t feel as though this book would be any less intriguing without having the background of The Glass Castle.
Altogether, the book truly offers a glimpse of another era and another lifestyle. I found the book thoroughly addicting and hard to put down. One of the things I loved most about the book was the first person narration: it really gives the reader a good sense of what kind of a person Lily was. Another thing I really enjoyed was the pictures. I’ve always loved old pictures, and to be able to place them with different scenes in the Lily Casey’s life was very interesting.
I’ll sign off with this fantastic quotation of Jeannette Walls’ from an interview she gave on the book: : “I always thought of Lily as proof that you could have a comfortable life if you made up your mind to do it. Lily left me with the notion that if you had the gumption to grab even the wildest life by the horns, you could wrestle it into submission.”
- beautifulbookborrower posted this