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The Glass Castle

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  457,329 ratings  ·  32,890 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 Book Company (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sparrow
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
...more
Angela
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
Krenzel
"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
Tracy
Jan 21, 2008 Tracy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Kate
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
...more
Annalisa
Oct 13, 2007 Annalisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Madeleine
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
Juliet
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
...more
Nicole
Dec 27, 2008 Nicole rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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 it...life 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
Marcie
Jan 12, 2008 Marcie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Scot
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
lkt
From my Amazon.com 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
...more
Polly
Jul 08, 2008 Polly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Diane
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
...more
Shayantani Das
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
...more
Sondra Santos
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
...more
Rachel
"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
...more
Karolina
Jul 31, 2007 Karolina rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Stacey
Mar 20, 2008 Stacey rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: memoir-enthusiasts, people who think they have it bad.
This is the first memoir I've read in a long time and I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. The author (Jeannette Walls) tells the story of her upbringing, beginning at the age of three and continuing until she's an adult. Her family (2 parents and 4 children) begin moving from state to state as soon as the father has stirred up enough trouble or incurred enough debt to have to flee. Their living conditions seem to grow worse and worse throughout the story. The father (Rex) is an alcoholic w ...more
Kim
Apr 01, 2008 Kim rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kim by: Valerie (thanks by the way)
Holy. Freakin'. Crap

I planned on writing some light hearted banter about how I would subject my ungrateful kids to this during family reading hour but after having such trouble stomaching what this woman went through, to do so would be completely unwarranted.

And they call this YA? What's happened in the last 25 years that made society believe that our kids could handle this? I just finished The Book Thief and had drawn a similar conclusion. What happened to the Judy Blumes and S.E. Hintons? Pony
...more
Michele
Like a Phoenix From the Ashes

I have no doubt as to why this book was recommended by to me, given my taste for well-written memoirs and my affinity for books like "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," by Betty Smith and "Angela's Ashes" by Frank McCourt. This completing engrossing tale of Jeannette Walls and her rise from the ashes of an extremely difficult childhood is on a par with both Smith's classic, and McCourt's Pulitzer Prize winning efforts.

"The Glass Castle" starts out on fire. Literally. Within
...more
Marika Gillis
This New York Times bestseller is an exquisitely written memoir. Jeannette Walls tells the story of growing up with free-spirited, irresponsible parents who lived life as an adventure and avoided obligation and domesticity. Jeannette's alcoholic father was strikingly intelligent and charming while simultaneously frightening in his carelessness. He rarely held down a job and squandered any money the family found to support his alcohol addiction. Her mother, an avid reader and dedicated artist, wa ...more
La Petite Américaine
Jeannette Walls had the kind of parents that make even the freakiest families on Wife Swap look like saints.

These are the kind of people who let their 3 year-old cook hot dogs, and when she catches on fire and has to get skin grafts, they end up breaking her out of the hospital. They are the types that put three kids and a newborn in the back of a U-Haul truck and don't notice that the back gate flies open as they speed down the highway. They spend every cent on booze and food for themselves whi
...more
Lena
I was totally captivated by this tale of how a young girl survived a childhood of grinding poverty and neglect brought on by her "free-spirited" parents. The stories Walls tells—from being given the planet Venus by her father one Christmas to her family's frequent, middle-of-the-night escapes from bill collectors—were incredibly compelling, if not always easy to read. While Walls does a good job of highlighting the affection and intellectual support she got from her oddball family, it was my des ...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Oh. My. God.

Walls has a non-fiction novel coming out this month, so I decided to re-read the book that started all the ruckus before I got Half-Broke Horses.

A little backstory: I was romantically involved with a man for some time while I lived in Austin, whom I met on a bus. I got on the bus, sat a few seats behind the cute, sandy-haired, rumpled guy with the prominent ears I spotted from the pay-stile, and sighed the happy sigh of one whose world contains all the things he needs: A job, a home,
...more
Ellery Adams
I admit - I didn't want to read this book. I had read the blurb and decided it sounded too bleak for my tastes. Having now finished it, I will say that it was difficult to read because of the content. The writing was excellent - honest and unembellished and I believed every word Walls wrote. I experience a range of strong emotions from anger to disgust to pity that have not been invoked by a book for a long time. It's one of those books you have to read portions aloud to someone else, because th ...more
Bonnie
ALA Alex Award
PSLA Fiction List
Virginia Readers Choice Award Master List

I have read many memoirs, but Jeannette Walls’ story beats them all. The difference is in her attitude. The way she approached the writing of her story left me reeling from its impact. There are so many things I have to say about this memorable memoir that it is difficult to organize my thoughts. I did begin with disbelief, especially when reading, on page 21: By the time I was four, I was pretty good with Dad’s pistol, a bi
...more
Synesthesia
This is an awesome book, but it's painful to read. The good thing about it is the strength of Jeannette Walls and her siblings. At first they seemed like a fun but eccentric family, but as Walls got older she realized that the situation she was growing up in was disturbing. She and her siblings worked hard to change and improve their lives. There's no whining and bemoaning her fate, her parents to me come off as people I don't know how to feel about. In some ways they are patient parents who tea ...more
Jennifer
Oct 29, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in memoir
When she was a child and a teenager, food often was scarce or nonexistent, and lunch, if she was lucky, sometimes came from classmates’ castoffs and scraps found in the school restroom garbage can. Now, she can afford to eat anything she wants anywhere she chooses.

Then, she survived with her three siblings, sleeping in cardboard boxes for beds in houses, shacks and even a railroad station often without electricity and sometimes without an indoor toilet or bathtub or heat. Now, as an adult she ca
...more
Mary
Aug 14, 2008 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone trying to make sense of their own difficult childhood.
Recommended to Mary by: Joy Herrick
I seriously loved this book--couldn't stop reading it, even as I found it somewhat painful. Her depictions of an alcoholic father--brash, with big dreams, great intellect, and very little common sense--rang utterly true for this reader. It was one of those books that left me feeling like the writer had lived and written some portion of my life--I finished the book mesmerized, startled, and grateful.
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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...
Half Broke Horses The Silver Star Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip ontembare paarden / het glazen kasteel FIRST LOOK: Die andere Seite des Himmels: Roman

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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.”
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“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.” 318 likes
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