Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Book: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Genre: Memoir
Rating: A
For: Fun (nonfiction book of the month)
From: I bought it, I forgot where

This one has been on the nightstand forever, waiting a turn. Finally, I decided everything else had to wait while it got read! And all you people who have been saying "read it! read it" for so long now... you were right. What a story it is! Gripping! Sad! Funny in parts! Inspiring! All of it. Wow.

First a bit of a summary for the one or two that haven't read it yet. The author tells her childhood story, in which she and her two sisters and one brother are raised by an alcoholic father and a...crazy? mother. Their childhood is filled with neglect beyond understanding, yet at the same time, a sense of family loyalty and togetherness that is hard to fathom under the circumstances. They are hauled around from home to home, never being able to feel a sense of stability. Their dad can not keep a job, gets in trouble with the law, drinks up and/or gambles the little bit of money they have. Their mom feels the need to paint all the time, but never seems to try and sell her paintings to help out the finances. She can teach, but also can't keep a job because she has no sense of sticking with a system. She's probably extremely clinically depressed, and she, no matter her issues and problems are, simply does not take care of her kids.

Yet some how, along the way, they both teach these kids interesting life lessons. They seem to be well educated and the kids, when they do end up in a school, are miles ahead of the other kids. Interesting that is. So it's so weird to me that they could not get their act together. We can blame alcoholism, and I guess depression. But still. The question that went around over and over in my head was, why? Why are they like this? What made them be this way?

There were some things that happened that were very painful to read. The filthy conditions they lived in, slop buckets, kitchens with open live wires, roof leakage where the ceiling just fell down and was ignored, eating cat food, eating butter, garbage everywhere, sleeping in boxes, no plumbing for baths. Wow. What we take for granted, huh?

But the very worst moment came when the dad took his daughter out gambling and basically let her be manhandled, and nearly raped, as "help" to get them more money, which he used of course for drink. That's when  my chin hit the floor. And how old was she? Like 13 or something?

The parents never recovered, but the resiliency of the kids is where this book is inspirational. How they were able to see through all this and get themselves out was amazing. And to go on to become a best selling author. People really can do anything they set their minds to!

Bottom line: I loved it.

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  1. I listened to this one last year. And you hit the nail on the head with this review. Jaw dropping is how I would describe it.

  2. If you liked this one you should read Half Broke Horses by the same author. She calls it a true life novel because she's written it about her maternal grandmother and she doesn't have all the details but it's so amazing. Here's my review is your interested:

  3. This book has been sitting around for almost a year...I think. I have not read it because it looks boring. It does not intrigue me at. However, after reading this post, and knowing that you liked it as well as you do has given me a different thought towards the book. It does not seem boring now.

  4. I am glad you finally read it. Amazing the love this family had and the life lessons I agree.

  5. I'm so glad you read this one! Yes everything about this book alternately shocked and appalled me but the kids got through it. So inspiring in the end.

  6. Oh my! How DO you recover from or rise above that kind of neglect? I keep seeing the book in Costco, and it catches my eye every time, but I don't know if I'm ready to read it.

    ALSO in appreciation of you and your neat blog, I have awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award, that you can get from my blog. (I'm new to this award thing, so forgive me if I'm not doing it right.)

  7. I loved this one too. I just finished her new book, Half Broke Horses, and it's fantastic. I hope you get a chance to read that one as well. It's her grandma Lily's story and it explains a lot about her mother Rosemary, which shed some more light on The Glass Castle.

  8. I think this is one of the best memoirs I ever read. The author does a great job of being honest but it never feels like self-pity. She had an amazing but sad story. And it is true that you feel the sense of love that was there too.

  9. I am glad you enjoy this! I read this back when all the controversy about memoirs was happening...

  10. I read this book a few years back and never reviewed it but it stuck with me. The things these kids went through blew me away at times. And yet their wasn't a ton of bitterness from the author which surprised me. I'm looking forward to reading this author's other book at some point.

  11. This was such a good read. I could not tear myself away from the book. I was appalled at how the parents neglected their kids, but still admired that they gave them some sort of education and how well the children turned out regardless. The end of the story, seeing their parents homeless in spite of the help offered them, made me sad.



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