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The Glass Castle

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  608,292 Ratings  ·  38,804 Reviews
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them ph ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Scribner
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Popular Answered Questions

Tara glass castle = broken promises

Her father was constantly saying, "Have I ever let you down?"
The glass Castle was the grandiose of promises the father…more
glass castle = broken promises

Her father was constantly saying, "Have I ever let you down?"
The glass Castle was the grandiose of promises the father made.
From the start of the book to the end of the book Jeannettes vision and hope for the glass castle changed.

I think it was a perfect title, in my opinion.(less)
Madelyn That doesn't really matter. Jeanette's father's dream of building the glass castle is not meant to be a materialized and logical thing. Rex obvioulsy…moreThat doesn't really matter. Jeanette's father's dream of building the glass castle is not meant to be a materialized and logical thing. Rex obvioulsy didn't think those kinds of things through, like also you see right into the house all day. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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My sister saw The Glass Castle on my coffee table and said, “Oh, I read that. It’s kind of . . .” then she paused and we both were awkwardly silent for a minute. “Well, I was going to say, it’s kind of like us, a little bit, but not –“

“Yeah,” I said. “I wasn’t going to say it – because not all of it – “

“Yeah, not all of it.”

We didn’t talk about it again.

When I first saw this book, I think I died a little inside because of the cover. I didn’t hate The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood like
Emily May
Now I get why people like this memoir so much.

Though it is a memoir and a true story, both the writing style and the way Walls reminisces about her childhood make it seem like more of a fairy tale. My favourite non-fiction books are those that don't lose the compelling flow of a good fiction book - that still pull you into another world and life, dragging you along for the ride. This is one of those.

I especially liked reading about Walls' complex and conflicting thoughts about her parents and ch
Nov 21, 2007 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I guess I have a somewhat different frame of reference than several of the reviewers here. I can relate to many of the lessons she learned, and as such, I never had an issue believing her. These things can and do happen. The system fails children, and addicts (whether they're addicted to alcohol or excitement) will seek their fix above all else. As long as the addiction is in the picture, the person just doesn't exist. Children in alcoholic families eventually become aware of this, and the soone ...more
Raeleen Lemay
Apr 29, 2016 Raeleen Lemay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own

This was really good! Difficult to read at times, but a marvellous book.
Nov 16, 2008 Krenzel rated it really liked it
Shelves: ala-notables
"The Glass Castle" is a memoir written by gossip columnist Jeanette Walls, which details her unconventional childhood growing up with an alcoholic father and a mother who seems to be mentally ill. Walls begins the book by explaining what has prompted her to write about her family: after she has "made it" and become a successful writer living in New York, she comes across her mother picking trash out of a dumpster and, in shame, slinks down in her taxi seat and pretends not to see or know her. La ...more
Aug 31, 2007 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book really made me angry--why can people who have absolutely no business having kids be able to have four?

Let me backtrack...

In the beginning, the Walls family is always on the run. The father is an alcoholic, who is intelligent, but believes everything upon everything is a conspiracy. He can't get a job because of the mafia, the government, the gestapo...The mother has a teaching degree, but chooses to be an artist. The family is barely able to scrape by; the father spends any money they
Oct 13, 2007 Annalisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annalisa by: bookclub
What I loved about this book is this: it presents her parents, with all their faults, and the poor mentality, at its worst, without anger, exasperation, or even really any judgment, just with the quirky love we all view our own childhoods. If she had been bitter in her description it would not have been believable, but instead it was tinged with forgiveness making me respect her for not only surviving such a strange childhood to become a successful, even functioning, adult but for being able to ...more
Jan 21, 2008 Tracy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: general audience
Recommended to Tracy by: my mom
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 03, 2013 Juliet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I originally gave this one star but then had to go back and re-rate it to a two b/c I surprised a couple of you guys and in my impulsive way, I realized perhaps one star was a bit too knee jerk.

It's not that I hated The Glass Castle, it's just that it irritated me with its self-conscious narrative style. Too much "look at how horrible things were!" and not enough detail or challenges to make me really care.

The same stories are told and re-told throughout the memoir novel, and they rely too
Dec 27, 2008 Nicole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone bored
Shelves: absolute-crap
Why is it that I hated this book when everyone else thinks it was good? It annoyed me on so many levels. I kept thinking to myself...."alright, I get sucks, move on". I just have so little sympathy and empathy sometimes, especially in books, that this just IRKED me. Sure, the writing was well done, the prose effective, the story was a bit enchanting...I just could NOT understand why this book got such great reviews. In fact, the reviews is why I kept reading it. Had someone else though ...more
It's no secret that I get to read on the job. I proofread for a financial publisher, which means that I spend my days getting lost in the lilting legalese of prospectuses, trustee meeting results, shareholder reports, highlight sheets – it's riveting stuff, trust me. But we're a small operation with only a few clients and the fiscal schedule is defined by a feast-or-famine work flow: While the numbers are still being tabulated, portfolio managers are polishing their semiannual interviews and sty ...more
Jan 08, 2017 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The warning is this: If you are going to become parents you must simply forego being bohemian. Otherwise your children might grow up to be super successful & you will end up eating trash off dark alleyways...

Peculiar upbringings are what memoirs are made of! We saw this in the Frank McCourt gray & sad "Angela's Ashes", and even more so in any of the Augusten Burroughs books (mainly "Running with Scissors"). When memoirs are like this, invigoratingly Roald Dahlesque in painting pictures o
Mar 06, 2008 Scot rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I know many people love this book, remarking on how powerful and moving it was, but I had some deep problems with the narrator's memory process, and some issues about what lessons I was ultimately supposed to learn here. It is a riveting tale, full of unforgettable suffering, strife, and perseverance, about growing up with two bohemian-minded parents, one a raging alcoholic and the other a manic depressive. It is the story of the dangerous synergy that combination produced, and how the narrator ...more
Honestly, simply a must read.

Wow. Firstly, thank you to my friend Elyse for recommending this book. She knows what I like. Wow this woman. Wow this family. I have just finished reading this books last pages whilst making my lasagne to feed my family, hastily stirring the white sauce and throwing in the bay leaves. The irony isn't lost on me.. I needed to finish this story. But! Mental illness is all around. This family is a perfect example, and also one of resilience. Hey, these children have m
Jan 12, 2008 Marcie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marcie by: Cheryl
Once I let my frustration with the parents' neglect go, I actually enjoyed this book. Because of her matter-of-fact, non-whining writing, I enjoyed reading this book the entire time and actually put off other things so I could read more. As a disclaimer to my following comments, I am in no way condoning all of their parenting style and I also acknowledge they did not provide for their children like a parent should, but I have to say that I learned quite a bit from her parents! The positive thing ...more
May 29, 2007 lkt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From my review:

"Sometimes people get the lives they want..."

A stunning memoir, hard to put down. Walls is superb with details, a true genius. She is a fine example of a self-made, successful person. But throughout most of the book, I was so angry with the parents, her mother in particular:

When the kids had nothing to eat, she hid a king-sized Hershey bar in her bed for herself. She had an excuse for her behavior, whining that she's a "sugar addict." (And later, she refuses to get a
Oct 16, 2015 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is not a review. There are already thousands of those. Instead, I present an anecdote.

I read this in 2008 for my now-defunct neighborhood book club. I decided that my oldest son, who was then 14, should read it for "Mom's Summer Reading Plan" - also known as the Mom-Forces-Us-To-Read-For-Half-An-Hour-Each-Day-Torture-Program by certain members of the family. I felt it was important for him to learn that not every child gets to grow up in a household that has eight different video game syste
Jan 06, 2016 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my extreme reluctance to reading family dysfunction memoirs, it was (thanks to my Goodreads friends' overwhelmingly positive reception to this, as well as an announcement of its big-screen adaptation) nigh time to finally give it a try.

What Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle lacks in poetic splash and clear-cut veracity, it more than makes up for with the one of the most compulsively readable, train-wreckiest stories about an f'ed-up childhood I've ever encountered. On multiple occasions
Richard Derus
Oct 16, 2015 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 resp
Jul 08, 2008 Polly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Polly by: abbysmom
A friend suggested that I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls a few months ago, and I have to admit when she first described it I was a bit leery. I thought it was going to be one of those “poor pitiful me” sagas about growing up with shitty parents. But I had heard a few things on the news about this woman and figured it was worth a try.

First and foremost this book is anything but a “poor pitiful me” story. Is they author’s life difficult? Oh my gosh yes. That would be the understatement o
May 04, 2016 Maureen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this memoir a lot. It is well written, interesting, and insightful. I liked getting this look into a family life that was so unlike mine. That being said, her story is so powerful and moving because despite all the things that happen to her she is still loving and forgiving.
Overall really fantastic, this has probably ruined me for any other memoirs.
Aug 08, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, all right, I read The Glass Castle. Stop nagging me already.

I've been avoiding this book for years because I was tired of dysfunctional family memoirs. Bookstores are saturated with them. Enough, I say!

But I finally caved because I had loved Walls' novel Half Broke Horses, and because so many friends had raved about Glass Castle. (And if you haven't read Half Broke Horses, I highly recommend it.)

Walls has a brisk writing style that I really like. Her chapters are short and direct -- you can
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I grew up in a similar situation as Ms. Walls. One thing that she has done that I haven't been able to make myself do is talk about my parents in a good light. She doesn't speak of her parents with any bad feelings. I did do that. I've made peace with my dad but my mom still pushes all my buttons. I loved this book. I can see myself finally starting to put the past behind me. We make ourselves what we are, our parents just give birth.
Jun 28, 2016 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We're giving love in a family dose"
"We are family,
I got all my sisters with me"
Rodgers/Edwards, We Are Family, 1978.

The Glass Castle is a family fugue, with odes of joy mincing oh so many winces. Drunk dad, manic mom, 4 kids, living in poverty. I think this broke my all-time record for head shakes during reading, at what those parents put those kids through and the hell they gave each other.

Yet, for all that the dad and mom took away and denied their children, they bestowed upon them a vivid i
Sondra Santos
Sep 13, 2007 Sondra Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow the narrator steps outside of her unusual and unimaginable life and speaks about her experiences as if she was referring to someone else. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a memoir and not a work of fiction and that these were situations that were not created but recalled, and with such vivid details.

There are four children in the Walls' family, all of whom turned out quite differently and whose experiences brought them to different places in their lives. Unfortunately, we onl
Shayantani Das
Feb 12, 2012 Shayantani Das rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeannette Walls, as a narrator, is such a delight to read. My first thought after finishing this novel was that I really really want to meet her in person. I had zero knowledge about who she was before I picked up her memoir, primarily due to the high ratings it has received from friends. After reading “The Glass Castle” though, I am most definitely a fan.

Jeannette Walls had the kind of life, which could have easily been recounted in a typical Bollywood movie way. That means the”Oh, I suffered s
Jul 31, 2007 Karolina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Applied English level readers.
In consideration of others, I think it's nice that this book was so straight-forwardly written, but at the same time, that's what made it very boring to me. I had a hard time visualizing anything because description of such was limited, and there was a lot of slang I didn't get.

There were some really striking scenes in here, but after the first few, they got old. The scene I liked best was when Jeanette's father gives her Venus for Christmas.

I really didn't like the tone of voice in this whole
Marilyn C.
May 07, 2016 Marilyn C. rated it it was amazing
An astonishing memoir on how alcoholism, mental illness and poverty can effect a family. Jeannette Walls holds nothing back when describing her unbelievable childhood. It's amazing to me how she can write so matter of factly and without resentment for her parents, when I felt so much anger towards them just reading this book. This story is a must read for everyone. 5 stars!
Jan 14, 2015 Maxwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

I don't read memoir very often, but when I do, I want them to be like this one. Jeannette Walls's story is incredibly powerful, and at times, unbelievable. That's not to say what she's writing isn't true, it's just that everything is so remarkably devastating at times and uplifting in others that it's hard to imagine anyone having such a clear head going through it all.

She writes with resilience, shedding light on some very negative experiences she had as a young person. Her childhood w
Jan 31, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster."

Okay, this may be a long one...I knew nothing of this book outside of the title sounding familiar when I picked it up to listen to during data entry. And it took one sentence...only one sentence to know that this was a different kind of book...and to know I wouldn't be able to stop listening to it until the end. Think back to how many books you can say th
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Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, she graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women's college affiliated with Columbia University. She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005. The book is being made into a film by Paramount.
More about Jeannette Walls...

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“Things usually work out in the end."
"What if they don't?"
"That just means you haven't come to the end yet.”
“You should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. Everyone has something good about them. You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that.” 432 likes
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