Scot's Reviews > The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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's review
Mar 06, 2008

it was ok
Read in March, 2008

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 and her siblings endured, withstood, and (well, some of them) triumphed. The film, when made, should do well at the box office. However, I am reminded of how a friend once explained Narcissism to me. "Narcissists," he said, "have to be the biggest Victims in the room and the strongest Heroes in the room--and they demand to be recognized as both at the same time."

My problem is, I found the narrator to be narcissistic, and I stopped believing her version of all the events, especially after I came across a few factual references that totally seemed incorrect based on my own experience and knowledge. These were things someone who lived the experience would have known. (She certainly claims to have a vivid memory of a lot of things that happened when she was three years old, too!) Although doubtful of the veracity, I was compelled by the series of diverse settings, the odd mix of characters, and the ongoing unpredictable calamities to read on and see what happens, if anything, at the end.
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02/23/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Heidi I happen to remember very much from when I was 3. I have no problems believing the author could remember events that happened when she was that young, because I have just as clear of memories from that age (and earlier). My first memories are when I was 18 months. And I swear, I'm not making it up. But believe it or not, just because you don't remember things when you were that young, doesn't mean everyone else is the same way.
And I really liked that the author left all of her emotion out of it. Clearly things like this have no need to show that there was lots of anger and resentment behind their actions, especially her siblings, but it seemed the author did a lot of hero worship of her parents (esp. her father), so she probably was not as traumatized by everything and horrified by everything as others (such as her siblings) and as you or I would have been. And as the author is older, you can feel her getting more and more frustrated with her situation as she has realized that the way they are living is not some magical adventure that her parents had brainwashed them into believing it was. I think she did a great job of portraying all the emotions without going overboard and making it dark and depressing, but more real - because she didn't indulge herself in those emotions while writing.

Heather I agree with you completely! I can remember breaking my arm at three years old. However, I do not remember any of the events before or after, and I certainly do not remember dialogue between myself and the nurses. The three-year-old's voice seemed to be the imaginings of someone who doesn't have kids and is making grand assumptions on how they would communicate.

I thought your review was refreshingly concise, fair, and well-written!

Suzie Q I have a suspicion that some of the recollection came from help with her brother and sister (although came from her mother, I'd be wary--her twinkie's definitely missing its filling)

Chris Walls is pretty straightforward about some parts of her account being fictionalized for the sake of making the story flow. Its not complete BS but she does elaborate her accounts for the sake of the larger story.

Jessie Foxx Fantastic, I could not agree more. Something I fail to see is, why aren't more people outraged by her parents (supposed behavior)?? Her father forces a three year old who just had a skin graft to leave a hospital before her treatment is over--while her brother has severe head wounds and is not being treated because their mother says "one kid in the hospital is enough"? How about the fact that dad drowns kittens? Or that he flings their pet cat out of the car window? It was a sickening excursion for me and I thought the story to be horrific and imagined. I'm still blown away that anyone enjoyed this

Jennifer As I age, although I too swear I remember my Christening at the ripe age of 6 months, I have discovered that true long-term memories occur in 3-5 second glimpses. Sometimes, strings of these events are strung together, but they are snapshots and not cohesive stories. Sometimes, these pictures even get blazoned wrong because something in them is odd or unfamiliar.

For example, I saw a guy I know get hit by a car in London, but I am American. I vividly remember the moment of impact and can see it in my head, but traffic is moving the direction it would have moved if I were in America. The body flies the correct direction, an impossibility in my logical mind, but that is the way I recorded it. My next snapshots all occur of me tending to my friend in the middle of the road. I can piece the memory together, but their are big chunks left out.

The only true memoirs are those taken straight from journals that were written at the time. Unfortunately, fiction always sells better than non-fiction so we have begun to get away from truth in our society and focus on sensational. In addition, it is a shame that our children can only read about fictionalized memories of dysfunctional families. It seems like we are telling our children this is the way they are supposed to be. And even those who should realize it is fiction defend its truth because it is listed as a "memoir."

Stephanie Schmeck I found myself questioning the recall of a 3 year old also, and in such supposed vivid detail that you can actually quote things your parents said??

Chris I remember in clear detail an incident that happened when I was 2 yrs old. Just sayin

Caryn Scot Wrote: "I stopped believing her version of all the events, especially after I came across a few factual references that totally seemed incorrect based on my own experience and knowledge. These were things someone who lived the experience would have known."

Can you be more specific? What are you referring to?

Amanda Ma Her parents should go to prison according to this book, they were killing their kids, there is nothing the author should be proud of that she is somewhat successful despite of her unfortunate childhood.

message 11: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian Zimmerman How about her father letting her use a 45 caliber Magnum at age 3? I admit I'm no expert, but doesn't that gun have a high amount of recoil? Wouldn't that break a 3 year old's arm? Even 2 handed it seems wildly implausible she could fire it accurately like she claimed to have.

message 12: by Scot (last edited Jul 31, 2014 11:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Scot Caryn wrote: "Scot Wrote: "I stopped believing her version of all the events, especially after I came across a few factual references that totally seemed incorrect based on my own experience and knowledge. These..."
I sent her this message last March: Hi--you left a message on a Glass Castle review I wrote a long time ago and requested specific factual information I said I believed the author had gotten wrong. You wrote this request several months ago and I just found it now, and it has been years since I read that book, so I can't remember all the details that triggered this at the time, but I'll try to respond to your request in good faith. I remember one had to do with how it works when you win a National Merit Scholarship for a high score on SATs. Something like that happens to the narrator in the memoir I believe, and I was lucky enough to have the same thing happen to me as a youth, but I recalled the set-up and procedural rules were different than the way she described them, and anyone who had actually won the way she claimed to would have known this. That was one--there were others, but that one sticks in my recall.

Rachel Nutt Who says you are necessarily supposed to learn any "lesson" from a book? One could argue that the lesson here is to work hard no matter what and you might turn out okay regardless of your environment. But then, sometimes a story is just a story.

Erin the Avid Reader ⚜BFF's with the Cheshire Cat⚜ Why is it nowadays people assume every story is supposed to teach a lesson? Are adults so babified now they need to be taught lessons in whatever they read and watch? This is something that keeps coming up that irks me because I'd think that adults would be able to realize that not everything is for teaching morals to them.

message 15: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Fiorella do some of the people here think she actually made her story up??

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