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A book by Jeannette Walls.

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Memorable, and strongly recommended

  • Aug 29, 2007
  • by
Other reviewers here have mentioned things that struck them most about Jeannette Walls's story, all of which are valid. What struck me most about it is that it illustrates that kids can turn out okay if their parents love them, almost no matter what else. A year ago I was helping (Volunteer) an art teacher and I noticed that some kids had depth and a sense of resiliency, whereas other seemed fragile and imperiled. I spent some time trying to isolate some of the commonalities of each type. When I'd came in contact with some of the parents, the answers I got almost all involved STYLES of parenting--strict or lenient, demanding or passive, activity-based or not, whatever. But that didn't begin to correlate, I found. What DID correlate was that the resilient kids had parents who a) really liked them and let them know it, and b) spent time with them...parenting styles notwithstanding.

All of which is a very long preamble to saying that one way to read this book is as an homage to love. For all the family's considerable travails, a sense of love, mutual regard, and family identity comes through the narrative. Rex Walls, tragic character though he was--a wasted talent, a hopeless alcoholic who died young and who did a lot of truly scummy things along the way--did, for all that, let his daughter know that he really loved her and thought the world of her. One gets the feeling from the book that the only child in the family who truly suffered "neglect" (in the psychological sense) was Maureen, the youngest. By the time she came along and came of age, the family's prospects had dimmed so much, and the parents were so far gone into their despair--and often just plain gone, as in not there--that she really lost out on that sense of being valued. If the other children's damage comes out at all, I would bet it would be in reluctance, on the part of the author and her sisters, to have children themselves.

The reciprocal love shown by the author for her parents and family--despite everything--is really, I think, what makes this book unique. I've read other books about abused, neglected, or disadvantaged children pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and "making it" despite the odds. And Jeannette Walls gets high credit for this in my eyes, no question. But what's remarkable about this book is that her parents' love for her--and her love for them--somehow made it through thick and thin. That's the core of "The Glass Castle" for me.

Its amazing how little self-pity there is in these pages. On the part of the author, I mean. The writing style is fluent and articulate, simple enough to be fun to read, needing only perhaps more of a poetic touch from time to time. The end of the book, to me, has a bit of the "living subject syndrome," where the reader gets the sense she can't quite be brutally honest because she's talking about people who are alive and in her life and who will read the book--but it's not excessive, and it's a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding book.

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More The Glass Castle: A Memoir reviews
review by . July 05, 2010
Jeannette Walls reveals to all the truth of her impoverished childhood...one of which you thought did not exist in America.      The book starts with Jeanette being a successful MSNBC writer and is on her way to a ritzy party in a NYC cab and at a light sees her mother digging through a dumpster.  This scene compelled the writer to tell the truth about where she came from and who she really is and stop hiding from herself and her family.       The …
review by . July 21, 2010
the glass castle, while at times an emotionally challenging read, is one of the more uplifting and triumphant books that i have read.  jeannette walls and her siblings had an incredibly difficult childhood, suffering through poverty, countless moves, an alcoholic father, and a mother described as at best  a 'free spirit.' the children manage to survive through the trials of their childhood, and are actually able to use these trials and lessons to become generally successful and …
review by . July 14, 2010
Some books take a few chapters to draw you in, the Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls, takes a page to completely sweep the rug out from under your feet.      "You had me at Hello." Random movie quote.      My deepest gratitude and praise to Jeanette Walls for laying herself bare in the pages of this book. You made me laugh and cry, and by the last couple of chapters I had to lock myself in the bathroom so I wouldn't be disturbed while I finished …
review by . July 12, 2010
The Glass Castle was difficult for me to read because it was emotional and there were some very difficult situations to stomach. Jeannette Walls lead an interesting childhood, to say the least. I think the emotional aspect is what made it so hard for me to read. I can't imagine a parent who would willingly provide such a rough childhood for their children. I would recommend reading this to someone who isn't overly emotional (like I am) because they would probably get more out of this book …
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
Heart-touching story. Incorporates a family's determination to survive while the father battles his own demons.
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Very well written memoir. Hard to believe that there are places like this in the US. Highly recommend this book!
review by . February 22, 2010
While reading The Glass Castle I found myself swinging from one extreme to the other--one minute condemning the irresponsible Walls parents, the next minute shaking my head at the wasted brilliance and originality of these people. Jeannette Walls parents, who spent her childhood running from police, bill collectors and child protection, refused to take charity or welfare, and filled their broken down home with library books were simply amazing. How one wonders again and again, was it possible for …
review by . January 11, 2010
This is one of those stories that no one could possibly make up. By now everybody knows that Jeannette Walls and her siblings spent their childhoods traveling all over the country from flop to flop, living on bare subsistence with a father and mother who wouldn't take a stable home on a bet. That, however, is not what I find so astonishing; there are probably thousands of families just like that, and social workers write books about them and appear on morning talk shows. It's a lot more common than …
review by . March 04, 2009
I read this well after the James Frey controversy where the notion of what constitutes a memoir and what constitutes fiction was hotly debated in the news.    I have to say, this memoir about a girl growing up with her siblings with eccentric parents (with issues) covers so much ground both geographically (Arizona, West VA, NY) and emotionally (alcoholism, mental illness, homelessness) that it's actually hard to believe they lived all this.     It is absolutely …
review by . March 05, 2007
It's very difficult, while reading this book, to keep in mind that it is actually non-fiction. The story appears so incredible that it just shouts out "fiction!". When you read this book, you truly see the workings of a very dysfunctional family, with the oddest set of parents I think that I have met in my years of reading. That the children turned out relatively well-adjusted is just short of a miracle. The book is sad, hilarious, solemn and dangerously funny all at the same time, and it's probably …
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Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. InThe Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be ...
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Books, Cafe Libri, Memoirs, Dysfunctional Families, Children Of Alcoholics


ISBN-10: 074324754X
ISBN-13: 978-0743247542
Author: Jeannette Walls
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Scribner
Date Published: January 9, 2006
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