Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review -- The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My earliest memories include twirling around in my front yard in a blue floral dress with a tutu-like skirt. Jeannette Walls’ first memories are of being engulfed in flames at the age of 3, after her tutu catches fire while she is cooking hot dogs (unsupervised) on the stove. Oh how different our lives were.

Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle is a mind-blowing look at her parents, siblings and childhood. Rex and Rose Mary Walls are not your typical parents – they are essentially gypsies, living out of their car and various rental homes in multiple cities as they avoid whatever demons – or most likely, police – are chasing them. Rex is brilliant, but an alcoholic, Rose Mary, is a woman with amazing talent, but can’t overcome her depression battles. Jeannette and her siblings are left to parent themselves – in the desert, on the streets, in homes meant to be condemned. They are often without food, clothing and shelter – living under rubber rafts to keep themselves dry from leaks in the ceiling and eating sticks of margarine in order to survive. Somehow Jeannette and her siblings endure childhood and a rag-tag education to become functioning and successful adults.

Reading this book was like watching a car wreck – so morbid, you need to look away, but ultimately you find yourself staring (or in this case reading) at the dreadfulness of it all. I was amazed at the survival instincts of these siblings – and what made them so different than others who, in similar circumstances, don’t break free from the cycle of poverty, alcoholism and abuse. I was also impressed that this wasn’t a “Mommy Dearest” tell-all. Ms. Walls accepts her parents for who they were – she does not point fingers or assign blame – but looks at their struggles, addictions and circumstances. Although highly dysfunctional, this was a family who, in their own way, genuinely loved each other.

For the sensitive reader: This book contains some language and sexual situations.

Book source: used book store.

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Tricia said...

I thought I would hate this book, but then I really ended up enjoying it (although enjoy isn't exactly the right word). It's a book that stays with you, but not the kind of book you want to read everyday.

A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Great attention grabber at the beginning of your review! I need to read this one.

Just Mom said...

Oh how this book amazed me. I don't let my ten year old cook on the stove much less a toddler. As much as I enjoyed this one, her next one about her grandmother hasn't interested me - are you thinking about reading that one?

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Just Mom:
This book blew me away.
I am going to read Half Broke Horses -- there is a YouTube clip on Goodreads that totally hooked me.

Amused said...

I thought this author was great and I agree with you in that the book really blew me away. I thought she would rip her parents apart but she didn't and it amazed me. Power of the human spirit I guess!