Rachel's Reviews > The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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's review
Jan 31, 2008

really liked it

"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 that about.

Because I don't think I could describe the story any better...borrowed from a review on Amazon...."In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar)."

I think this was an amazing book but I'll be honest and say that about halfway through I really started to get mad. Like I said, I didn't know anything about this book so didn't know it was a memoir. About the time the family gets to West Virginia (where I grew up), was when I started to wonder what exactly was happening. Either this author read every book about WV they could and just threw in the absolute worst stereotypes they could find...and if so, this was making me mad. OR. I started hearing real names and places, real situations and so I grabbed the jacket cover and found out that all this really did happen to this woman. And the anger melted and the fascination and let's face it, horror, came back.

I was looking at reviews and then I was looking at some questions for the reader and one in particular just struck me because it was something i was thinking about the entire way through the book. How long does it take you to come to the conclusion that the parents are 'bad'--or do you? And why this thought crossed my mind was that through the very beginning portion of the book, though on occasion, I had to cock my head and say 'seriously?' to something insane the parents did, I was actually pretty impressed with some of their philosophies. Then you progress to the middle section of the book and it's reversed...you wonder how a child could survive being brought up with these parents, but on occasion, they'd do something actually fairly interesting again and I'd cock my head and say 'really?', before I'd go back to wondering where the hell child welfare was in all this. You can't forget that these kids had to rummage through garbage because of some incredibly selfish things that the parents did and that apparently attempted sexual molestation is simply a 'perception'. But I also couldn't forget that some of the things they tried to teach their kids (dangers of being materialistic for example), are pretty valuable lessons. Just this dichotomy itself is why I say READ IT. And don't just read it...THINK ABOUT IT.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 31, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Sonia Reppe Some people will disagree with you, but I agree. I don't think the parents were bad people. They were pretty sucky parents. They were selfish; the dad was an egoist (too good to hold a regular job), and the mom cared more about her creative life than about taking care of her kids.
There are people like this everywhere—not a large percentage, but still— I don't understand how some of the readers on goodreads claim they "don't believe" that Jeanette Walls is telling the truth. Lots of creative geniuses— artists, musicians, writers, etc— are like this.

message 2: by Janis (new)

Janis Mills I have to say that I was not crazy about this book when I read it the first time. Then I read a personal narrative from one of my 6th grade students who has had a life like the author's life. My student's life is well documented as she is a special ed student with behavior problems. I knew that child's narrative was truly amazing. Then I went back and read the author's narrative again. I heard the author's voice at that point and realized I read a great piece of literature.

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