Today is the first official meeting of the book club. And perhaps the last. We’ll see how it goes and work out any issues and decide if it might be fun to do it again and what book we should read next and how long we need to finish said book. See? It’s a lot to think about.
I feel like I need to confess up front that I have never participated in a real life book club, unless you count all the times Gulley and I have read the same book and discussed it over chips and queso. The idea of a real life book club commitment kind of stressed me out since I tend to get stressed by commitments of all kinds because WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND?
Plus I only want to read the books I want to read and don’t want to waste any time reading something that might involve science fiction or boring people. But what I do know is it’s a pretty safe bet that if I ever participated in a real life book club, I’d be content to just sit back and listen to what everyone else had to say because I’d be afraid of saying something stupid or inappropriate.
(Like last week in Bible study when I went off on a tangent about the show Good Times)
That being said, I’ll begin our discussion and include a few questions at the end. Feel free to add your thoughts, insights and questions in the comments and we can all just check in there to see what everyone has to say. I’ll chime back in there, also.
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls basically had me from hello. I adore a good memoir and, even though this was part novel/part memoir, it read very much like an authentic first hand account of Lily Casey’s life. I thought it was written with humor (big fan of humor) and sensitivity but definitely made me think about things in my own life and whether or not I agreed with Lily’s philosophies on life.
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
“I asked Dad if he believed everything that happened was God’s will. ‘Is and isn’t,’ he said, ‘God deals us all different hands. How we play ’em is up to us.'”
“Also, my front teeth jutted out, so she bought me a red silk fan to cover my mouth. Whenever I laughed or smiled too big, Mom would say, ‘Lily, dear, the fan.'”
When her daddy was teaching her to train horses…“Most important thing in life,” he would say, “is learning how to fall.”
(I’ve used this particular quote several times in recent days because Caroline is trying to learn how to ride a two-wheel bike. So far it hasn’t helped. But it makes me feel better to say it.)
And maybe because I am a big English nerd at heart, I adored this “Two of Dad’s biggest concerns in his letters were industrialization and mechanization, which he felt were destroying the human soul. He was also obsessed with Prohibition and phonetic spelling, both of which he saw as cures for mankind’s tendency toward irrational behavior.” She later goes on to write, “At the same time, 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 pronounce 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.'”
Y’all have no idea how much I wish a real book existed called Ghoti Out of Water.
I loved Lily Casey. I admired her tenacity in hard times and the way she just did what she had to do. She accepted her circumstances and made the best out of her situations, never wallowing in self-pity. I had times where I questioned what kind of mother I thought she was. No doubt she loved her children, but the boarding school decision was hard for me to understand even though it was a different day and time and I’m think she was just trying to give them the opportunities she wished she’d had.
Overall, this was one of the best books I’ve read in a while and I’ve already started The Glass Castle because I want to see what happens to Rosemary and Rex.
So here are a few questions (adapted from the Simon and Schuster reading guide) you can ponder. Or not ponder. Or turn into other thoughts. Or add your own thoughts.
1. When Lily’s father dies, she and Rosemary drive his body from Tucson back to the ranch in West Texas. Rosemary is embarrassed to be seen driving with a corpse and ducks down in the car when they stop at a red light (pg. 198). “Life’s too short, honey,” Lily tells Rosemary, “to worry what other people think of you.” What does Lily’s reaction to this behavior show about her character? Does she give much credence to what other people think of her? What effect do you think her mother’s attitude had on Rosemary?
2. Lily has high expectations for her children, from sending them off to boarding school despite their protests to enforcing strict rules for keeping animals as pets. When Rosemary falls in love with a wild horse and asks her mother if she can keep it, Lily replies, “The last thing we need around here is another half-broke horse” (pg. 190). How might this statement apply to Lily’s children as well? Are Lily’s expectations of her children particularly high or rather a reflection of the times? Why do you think this phrase was chosen as the title of the book?
3. When a group of Brooklyn ladies visits the ranch, Rosemary and Lily take them for a car ride they’ll never forget. Lily concludes their encounter by saying, “You ride, you got to know how to fall, and you drive, you got to know how to crash” (pg. 175). How does this statement apply to Lily’s life as a whole? What does she mean by knowing “how to fall”?
4. While attempting to prevent the ranch from flooding, Lily tells Rosemary, “Do the best you can…That’s all anyone can do.” Her instructions are echoed by Jim’s declaration: “We did a good job—good as we could” (pg. 152). Why do you think Lily and Jim have both adopted this philosophy? To which other instances in their lives are they likely to have applied this rationale?
5. “Helen’s beauty, as far as I was concerned, had been a curse, and I resolved that I would never tell Rosemary she was beautiful” (pg. 119). Examine Lily’s relationship with her daughter, Rosemary. How does each generation try to compensate for the one before? How does each mother try to avoid the mistakes or pain imposed upon her by her own mother?
Can’t wait to hear what you have to say.