Synopsis: (From Publishers Weekly) Freelance writer Walls doesn't pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure."
Video of Jeannette Walls on “The Glass Castles” with her mother.
About the Author: Jeannette Walls was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and grew up in the southwest and Welch, West Virginia. She graduated from Barnard College and was a journalist in New York City for twenty years. Her memoir, The Glass Castle, a triumphant account of overcoming a difficult childhood with her dysfunctional but vibrant family, has been a New York Times bestseller for over three years. A publishing sensation around the world, The Glass Castle has sold more than 2.5 million copies in the U.S. and has been translated into twenty-two languages. Walls is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Christopher Award for helping to "affirm the highest values of the human spirit," as well as the American Library Association's Alex Award, and the Books for Better Living Award. The Glass Castle was chosen as Elle magazine's book of the year. Walls lives in rural Virginia with her husband, the writer John Taylor.
My Review: The Glass Castle: A memoir by Jeanette Walls
In The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls tells the story of her unconventional, nomadic upbringing as a child. Her father, Rex was a very intelligent and charismatic man, who spent time teaching his four children. His alcoholism keeps the family in unimaginable poverty. Rose, the mother of the family was an artist who really could not be bothered to provide basic care to her children or maintain employment as a teacher. Jeanette and her siblings did well in school and learned to fend for themselves at a very early age. What struck me most about this book was not what happened to the children/family, but how the author’s voice when telling about these events of her youth contained such love and compassion for her parents. In many regards the children had to parent themselves as well as their parents. I did not pick up feelings of resentment in reading The Glass Castle. Rex promised to build the family a Glass Castle for them all to live in. The promise to me showed the hope this family had, which unfortunately never became a reality.
Jeanette is able to preserve and maintain hope throughout The Glass Castle. This is what makes The Glass Castle different from other memoirs I have read about dysfunctional families. I was not left with that “icky” feeling when reading this. The children were terribly neglected, but this was not done with malice. I believe the parents loved their children.
Jeanette and her siblings are able to escape. One by one they go to New York to start a new life for themselves. Three of the children seem to fair well as adults and maintain a relationship with their parents. Then the parents move to New York to be with the family. They chose a life of homelessness, which is hard to understand. But the children seem to accept their parents and who they are.
My Rating: 4/5 – I would recommend this book to others.
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