Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard, but Pretty Amazing Story! Great for Book Clubs., 4 Mar 2013
This review is from: The Glass Castle (Paperback)
The Glass Castle
By Jeannette Walls

This compelling memoir is told through the straight-forward voice of Jeannette Walls as she casts her memories back to when she first realized her family's living situation was anything but normal. She's on a stool, all of three years old, stirring a boiling pot of water over an open flame. Hot dogs were a staple in the Walls family around that time and as she stirred and poked, flames suddenly blasted up her pink netted ballerina outfit and engulfed her in flames.

After many skin grafts and while enjoying all the attention of the hospital staff, she is suddenly snatched away by her ultra-paranoid alcoholic father and off the family heads on to yet another lost town, another shabby trailer or shack or desolate train depot. Sometimes they had food, sometimes not. But one thing they always did have was each other.

"How many places have we lived?" I asked Lori.
"That depends on what you mean by `lived?" she said.
I thought. "If you unpack all your things." We counted eleven...then lost track.

The parents in this story of struggle, it soon becomes apparent, are the true children. Her father, Rex, spends more time sitting at a poker table or bar than he ever did working a steady job. Her mother, Rose Mary, though trained as a teacher, prefers to paint and write her stories rather than support the family in any seemingly meaningful way. There were many many times when the refrigerator was bare, they had rags for clothes and no gas for the car. Yet through this poverty-stricken childhood, a fierce determination burned in Jeannette's heart and would help her succeed in the future.

When Rex was sober, he taught his children physics, history, and complex lessons in philosophy. He was constantly working on blueprints for his dream house--The Glass Castle. This became an unattainable fantasy when the family was finally forced to move to Welch, West Virginia, Rex's birthplace. It's here that the family more or less, caves in. They live in a tiny shack with no water or heat. Rex steals what little money they have for booze while Rose Mary acts as if nothing is amiss retreating into a strange state of mad painting and writing sessions, pretending all is well as things slip down the drain around her.

It's in this ultra you-can't-go-any-lower place that first her older sister, Lori, and then Jeannette herself, escape to New York City and find that life can be whatever they choose. This is not a tale for the squeamish and I think one of the most amazing things about this story of struggle and near-starvation is that it's told with complete non-judgmental clarity. There was no belly aching, no pointing fingers, no blame and amazingly--no regrets.

The one thing I did come away with wondering was whether this was the honest to goodness truth?

You be the judge.
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