I haven't even finished this book yet, but I'm definitely recommending it. Maybe it's because my forbears lived lives like this out west, maybe because I've lived out there myself, or maybe because we've just driven through many parts of the country where this book plays out, but the narration seems so immediate and real that I'm drawn deeper and deeper into the scenery and situations as each page is turned.
Half Broke Horses is by Jeannette Walls, author of the acclaimed memoir The Glass Castle, which I haven't read but will right after this. While The Glass Castle is a memoir, Half Broke Horses is the story of Jeannette Walls' grandmother, told in a captivating first person voice.
I've just come to a part where Lily, the subject of the book, has gone to teach school in a little Mormon polygamist town in northern Arizona. She's got her two children, Rosemary and Little Jim, with her. Lily is describing the town and its people:
The houses they lived in, I came to see, were essentially breeding factories where as many as seven wives were expected to churn out a baby a year... The girls were raised to be docile and submissive. In the first few months I was there, a couple of my thirteen-year-old girls disappeared, vanishing into their arranged marriages.
Rosemary was fascinated by these kids with all their multitudes of moms, and these dads with all their sets of wives, and she kept asking me to explain it. She was particularly intrigued with Mormon underwear and wondered if it really gave the Mormons special powers.
"That's what they believe," I told her, "but that doesn't mean it's true."
"Then why do they believe it?"
"America is a free country," I said. "And that means people are free to believe whatever cockamamie thing they want to believe."
"So they don't have to believe it if they don't want to?" Rosemary asked.
"No they don't"
"But do they know that?"
Oh golly, I love this book. If its not on your bookshelf, go rustle it up. You won't be disappointed.