So how does one do a prequel on a book that was basically one's own life story, well you create a "true life" novel and take on the voice of your maternal grandmother. This unique genre took some getting used to. It had the familiarity of old family tales being passed down through the generations to the point where the book was more vignettes that a life-story plot-driven work. Another distraction was comparing it to Castle, a book that I apparently so fondly recall that I wonder if it was really that good (I'm sure all of us can relate to building things up in our minds).
But the good news upon finishing this one is that I was almost tempted to pick up Castle again and continue on the Walls clan. The stories of Walls' grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, certainly helped explain why her own childhood was so unconventional, if not just downright odd, most of the time. These are some spunky genes.
Adding to my enjoyment is that a great deal of the novel is set in my adopted home state of Arizona (along with doses of New Mexico, Texas, and even Chicago), so quite interesting to learn about life on the ranches of northern Arizona and even some details of my hometown of Phoenix which, with the advent of air conditioning, was starting to grow into a big city (though it doesn't seem much like a city today, more urban sprawl).
A quick, entertaining, educational, funny, dramatic, and certainly eye-opening read of what life was like in the "Old West" in the not so distant past. That said, I was a bit surprised this book is landing on so many year-end best book lists (particularly The New York Times which ultimately narrows their list down to just their top 5 fiction books of the year). Walls is a skilled storyteller, but now having mined her family's past and her own life, it will be interesting to see what she will come up next.