Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Oooof, this was one hell of a book.  I highly recommend it, even if…actually, especially if memoirs aren’t normally your thing.

Description from Goodreads:The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.”

Description from Amazon {which I’m including because it’s so different from Goodreads}: “Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. […] Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she [Rose Mary – the mother] could make a painting that might last forever.  Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.”

My take:  I don’t even know where to start.  This book is a memoir, but it reads like a novel.  I missed my stop multiple times on the train because of this one.  That also happened with The Circle.  I either need to pay more attention, stop reading on the train, or read less interesting books.

This read like fiction and every once in awhile I’d remember that it all really, truly happened to the author and would feel sick to my stomach over everything she went through.  Burned herself cooking hot dogs at the age of 3.  Lived in a house with no plumbing from middle school through high school.  Subjected to nefarious advances so that her dad could swindle some loser out of his pocket change.  It was disgusting, heart-wrenching, infuriating and painful to read.  It was also interesting, compelling, and fascinating.

I consider myself to have a pretty fucked up, dysfunctional family, and some off-kilter parents.  This book helps you realize, it could be worse.  In that way, it’s almost an uplifting, self-help book.  Showing you how bad some people have it can make you feel a hell of a lot better about your own situation.  Now, I just need to figure out a way to get my sisters to read it without my mom realizing that it’s also about a drunk parent who does things at the expense of their own children.


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