Untamed Heart

From The New York Times:

Cover-500 Jeannette Walls was raised in poverty and hardship by skittish, eccentrically idealistic, profoundly unfit parents. As Rex and Rose Mary Walls caromed between dying mining towns, both of them too willful to hold down a job, their four children slept in cardboard boxes, set themselves on fire, subsisted on margarine and cat food, and, as they grew older, struggled to hide their meager earnings from their father, who cheerfully robbed them to pay for his alcoholic sprees. Anyone who devoured Walls’s incandescent 2005 memoir, “The Glass Castle,” has wondered: How did such untamed characters come to exist in America, in the not-so-distant 1960s and ’70s? Walls’s new book, “Half Broke Horses,” a novelistic re-creation of the life of her maternal grand­mother, Lily Casey Smith, in the first half of the 20th century, told in her grandmother’s voice, gives a partial answer to that perplexing question. Through the adventures of Lily Casey — mustang breaker, schoolteacher, ranch wife, bootlegger, poker player, racehorse rider, bush pilot and mother of two — Walls revisits the adrenaline-­charged frontier background that gave her own mother a lifelong taste for vicissitude. “I’m an excitement addict,” Rose Mary Walls liked to tell her children. And yet — can the contours of one woman’s life ever sufficiently explain the life that proceeds from hers?

More here.