Half Broke Horses is the story of Lily Casey Smith's life. Author Jeannette Walls, the granddaughter of Lily Casey Smith, wrote the book from Lily's point of view. Lily is portrayed as a strong, spirited, and resourceful woman, who overcomes poverty and tragedy with the positive attitude that "When God closes a window, he opens a door. But it's up to you to find it." As a child growing up on the frontier in Texas, Lily learns how to break horses. At the age of fifteen, she rides five hundred miles, alone, to get to her job as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Later in life, Lily runs a vast cattle ranch in Arizona, along with her second husband and their two children. A woman of many talents, Lily earns extra money at various points in her life by playing poker, selling bootleg liquor, and riding in horse races. She also tries to fight injustice and prejudice wherever she finds it, which occasionally lands her in trouble. Half Broke Horses depicts the freedom of rural life, its joys and struggles, and celebrates the courage and spirit of its protagonist. Jeannette Walls says the book is "in the vein of an oral history, a retelling of stories handed down by my family through the years, and undertaken with the storyteller's traditional liberties.