Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle: A Memoir
Book Details
Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
2005, Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9780743247542

Summary (from the back cover):
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.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing - a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

My Review:
Wow. That about sums it up. Amazing story. I'm usually not much of a memoir reader. I like happy books - preferably novels. I've only read a handful of memoirs in the past and they were generally assigned reading for college classes. I was given this book to read by a friend to read. I probably never would have picked it up on my own.

Jeannette Walls tells her remarkable story of growing up with totally irresponsible parents. You can tell that her parents love their children, but they are completely selfish. There are times when they are homeless, don't have heat, food or indoor plumbing. I kept having to remind myself that this was a true story, not just something made up because it is so mind-boggling that people live this way - AND that basically, they choose to live this way. Her mother had a teaching degree and her father was a talented electrician, but neither one of them was willing to keep a job long enough to provide well for their children. You can also see her father has he spirals from a fun-loving, free-spirited person into someone who is (I think) disappointed in himself and unhappy with how his life is turning out and becomes "the town drunk."

What really was amazing is the tone in which Walls tells the story. She just tells it - she's not asking for sympathy or making it an excuse for anything - it's just the way life was for them. And between the four of the children, three of them have become successful at whatever they've chosen to do. Only the baby of the family seems to have turned out like her parents.

Like I said, I'm not usually one to read memoirs, but I would recommend this book to anyone. It was interesting and kept my attention. I would have read it straight through if I'd had the time!

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