Margrét's Reviews > The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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's review
Jan 11, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: books-i-own, for-school, read-in-2010, read-in-english, biography-memoir, to-re-read
Read in February, 2010

** spoiler alert ** This book is about a girl named Jeannette Walls, she tells her own story. These are her memories. It’s about her youth, when she lived with her family, her three siblings: Brian, Lori and Maureen and her parents, who were not your regular parents. I believe that they were a very dysfunctional family. Her father was an alcoholic, always spending the family’s money on booze and alcohol and her mother was an artist, who didn’t like working. She had a teaching degree, but she didn’t like teaching, so she didn’t, unless her kids literally forced her to do it.

The family lived in great poverty. They lived in bad houses, and a lot of times they didn’t have money for food. The kids actually had to dig through the trash for food to avoid starvation. When they were living in Welch, during the cold winter, they didn’t even have money to heat up their house. They were freezing.

What I find most shocking about this, is that they lived like this by choice. The mother had inherited many acres of land, worth a million dollars, which she could have sold. But she didn’t do it. She didn’t want to. It was her choice to live in poverty, like they did. It kind of reminds me of Independent people. Bjartur could have taken a loan, and then his family would have been better off. But he didn’t do it because he had principles, he thought he could become independent by not accepting any help from others. But in this book, I did’t see any clear principles, or reasons for why they chose this kind of life. They could have bought a proper house, afforded food – they could have been rich. They even could have built the Glass Castle, if they had really wanted to. The search for gold, the poverty – it all seems so pointless.

But I don’t know. I think that even if they had sold the land, they couldn’t have stayed in the same place all the time. It seems to me that it was in their nature to travel and move from place to place. And the parents don’t seem likely to have spent the money wisely. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything. Maybe they still would have been on the move, avoiding bill collecters and child welfare people.

You could argue that this life is no worse than any other life. The mother says: it’s good for you to go through rough times, it makes you stronger. Just look at everything like an adventure. And maybe a thousand years ago, this family would not have been so different or weird. They’re like a family from the past, in the present. Moving from place to place, letting the children do whatever they want. But today, this is considered very dangerous, always leaving the doors open and things like that.

There are so many things that could have happened. When the father took the kids to the zoo, and they went into the cage of a cheetah, one of the kids could have been attacked. The children had access to a gun. When Brian was shooting to scare Billy away, he could easily have shot one of his sisters accidentally. Or someone could have actually raped Jeannette. It’s just a coincidence that these things didn’t happen, nothing needed to be different about the parents for these things to happen.

And a lot of bad stuff did happen. The father was violent, he burned down the Christmas tree, Jeannette burned herself really badly. He took his daughter with him gambling, practically using her, letting this man taker her upstairs. Who does that! There are always these extremes. For example, the kids found a diamond ring on the street. They could have bought food, but the mother chose to keep it, claiming that she needed it for her self esteem. Meanwhile, her children were starving and freezing and their house was falling apart. She bought herself chocolate, and ate it, while her kids had nothing. It sometimes seemed like she didn’t care about the children. She talked about how it was their fault that her art career hadn’t taken off. But I also have sympathy for her, because her husband was very difficult, and I think she felt defeated and depressed.

But so many bad things happened, that it started to seem normal. There were some good things about the parents too. Like when the father gives the children the stars, or when Jeannette and her father are sitting on a wall, laughing at something silly. And when all the bad things have become so normal, the good things start to stand out more. When I think about the book now, I remember about an equal amount of good and bad things, when in reality, a lot more of bad stuff happened.

Maybe this life had som good effects on the children, and the parents had of course good sides. But I think they could have taken much better care of their children, and that their live could have been so much better. I don’t think this kind of parenting and living should be looked at as a good thing. Of course people have the right to live the lives they want, as long as it doesn’t harm the children. And I really believe that these extremes did harm the children. Just look at what happened to Maureen. The parents could have lived the lives they wanted, but still bought food and heating. Maybe the mother didn’t have to sell the land, but she could have sold the diamond ring, you know.

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Reading Progress

01/15/2010 page 10
02/12/2010 page 144
42.23% "So far, so good. Feels a little repetitive at times. But I really want to keep reading."
02/15/2010 page 297
87.1% "This book is sooo good! When I'm not reading it, I'm thinking about it. Can't wait to finish it."
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