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GROUP READS > The Glass Castle - will contain spoilers

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message 1: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 15867 comments Mod
This thread will open on March 1.

If you choose to read The Glass Castle for the Group Reads task (or another task for that matter) please feel free to discuss it here.


message 2: by Vivian (new)

Vivian (_vivian) It's early, so no spoilers from me but read this recently and there were parts I both loved and hated about the book, ended up giving it 4 stars, I think. Definitely looking forward to hearing people's thoughts on it :)


message 3: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) | 104 comments I loved this book. I was so disappointed with her parents at times, but I was so proud of her. I found myself crying, and I could hardly put it down. Her writing style is wonderful.


message 4: by Dee (new)

Dee (nushmutty) | 157 comments I'm just about halfway through (I'm a really slow reader) and I'm so invested in this memoir that I find myself stealing away to the restroom at work to get a page or two in! I'm alternately in awe of and upset by her parents. They are at once brilliant and completely detached from reality! I'm dying to find out how Jeannette and her siblings ended up prospering with such an unusual and sad upbringing.


message 5: by Tanya Patrice (new)

Tanya Patrice (tanyapatrice) | 150 comments All I could say when I finished this book was ... Wow. That this was the author's life along with her siblings, and they turned out pretty good - but I feel it for all the people who live like this and the kids don't overcome.


message 6: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) | 104 comments Dee wrote: "I'm just about halfway through (I'm a really slow reader) and I'm so invested in this memoir that I find myself stealing away to the restroom at work to get a page or two in! I'm alternately in awe..."

I totally understand. I was completely awed. I found myself admiring intelligence and then being all "huh?" all the time.


message 7: by RedSycamore (last edited Mar 04, 2011 08:15AM) (new)

RedSycamore | 96 comments Tanya wrote: "All I could say when I finished this book was ... Wow. That this was the author's life along with her siblings, and they turned out pretty good..."

I felt the same way! I was really surprised that the youngest of the four siblings, who seemed to spend the most time away from the family, ended up being the one who had the most problems adjusting later in life.


message 8: by Vivian (new)

Vivian (_vivian) Dee wrote: "I'm alternately in awe of and upset by her parents. They are at once brilliant and completely detached from reality!"

I think I was more disgusted with them than in awe. I can appreciate their genius and marching-to-their-own-beat kinda thing, but if that's the case, they really had no business having 4 kids, even if most of them turned out okay.

Anyone else really curious about what happened with the youngest girl?


message 9: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) | 104 comments Anyone else really curious about what happened with the youngest girl?

I am. I really hope she's okay. I wonder if we could google her or something.


message 10: by Shannon (new)

Shannon ★ (shann0n) I read this book a few years ago and I don't remember much about it, only that I disliked it. I feel like the family was just too F'ed up for me. I understand that that was the purpose for the story, but it just didn't make me feel anything. I mean, aren't we all messed up in one way or another? I don't know; I can't even articulate exactly what it was that I disliked so much, but it's there.


message 11: by Dee (new)

Dee (nushmutty) | 157 comments Vivian wrote: "I think I was more disgusted with them than in awe. I can appreci..."

I totally get that now. At the time I posted my other comment I was just getting to the halfway point in the book. I didn't believe her parents could get worse, but they did. It's so so sad."


message 12: by KSMary (new)

KSMary | 802 comments I read this a year or so ago and I too am curious abut the youngest sister. I feel that although the kids are functioning members of society, they didn't come out of the experience unscathed. I too was left wondering what happened to the youngest girl. I would like to read the author's follow up book Half Broke Horses about her grandmother. For me as a mother, I have a hard time understanding how you could not do everything in your power to protect and provide for your children.


message 13: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) | 104 comments I guess I get a different side, I am not a mother, but I grew up with alcoholic parents. I can relate to the children more and I also feel bad for the parents. Alcohol is an addiction that needs to be treated if it is being abused. So I really don't blame the father, he tried multiple times to quit and couldn't. I blame the mother-she didn't (seem to) WANT to take care of her kids. She didn't (seem to) WANT to do anything that didn't benefit her.

Also-we have to realize that everything we read is from the daughter's POV. She may have made assumptions about what was going on in her parents' heads and because we never get their side of the story, we won't know.


message 14: by Bluemoon (new)

Bluemoon (bluemoon286) | 1839 comments I did enjoy this book more than I thought that I would. It makes me sad though that this was her life and not just something that she made up. I think that both of her parents were incredibly selfish and didn't seem to care what the kids did unless they could benifit from it. I am glad that most of the kids managed to pull themselves out of that situation.


message 15: by Amanda (new)

Amanda (amandapearl) | 273 comments This book made me rage! I was listening to the audio book in my car and literally yelling "you jerk! Don't give him money! Get a job! No, quit whining! OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!?!" And yet at the same time part of me loved her parents. I honestly don't know how to feel about it. They seemed like such intelligent people, but without a drop of common sense. In the beginning I was like, ok they're weird but they're teaching their kids and they love them and while they might not have anything very rich, overall their life is ok.

I think it was once they moved to West Virginia that things went to hell. I spent a lot of that part of the book wondering why they stayed there; surely they were all more happy in Arizona? Alcoholism is a horrible disease, and my heart just aches for Jeannette's father, because I really think if he'd never gotten addicted their lives would have all been so much happier. The mom I think was a lot more emotionally scarred than we knew. We only got the story from Jeannette's perspective, and she seemed much closer to her father. I think if Maureen or Lori had told the story we'd understand their mom a lot more.

I feel bad for Maureen, but in a way her story makes sense. The other kids had their desert childhood to remember, but Maureen only knew West Virginia and the horrible conditions of their life there.


message 16: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) | 104 comments Amanda Pearl wrote: "This book made me rage! I was listening to the audio book in my car and literally yelling "you jerk! Don't give him money! Get a job! No, quit whining! OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!?!" And yet ..."
You pretty much summed up my exact feelings :) Thank you!


message 17: by Vivian (new)

Vivian (_vivian) I think a lot of us felt that way.

Also, to find out at the end about her mom's property?! I was flabbergasted.


message 18: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) | 104 comments I knew her mom's property was worth a lot. But I also understood keeping it in the family. I was really frustrated with the happy life in the house out West, and just moving out because of the stupid mix up with the kid.


message 19: by Jackie (new)

Jackie | 128 comments I read this book about a year ago and still talk about it quite a bit. What surprised me the most was the tone of the novel. The author had a very "this is the way it was" tone. There wasn't any blaming, or feeling bad for herself. Just a straight story, you come up with your own feelings. Seems like everyone had similar feelings in this group!


message 20: by Wendy UK (last edited Mar 19, 2011 12:30PM) (new)

 Wendy  UK (wendyuk) | 756 comments I really did not like this book. The writing is so matter of fact and unemotional that I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir, and the author is the person it actually happened to. Why isn't she raging against parents who were so cruelly self centred that they wilfully subjected their children to abusive neglect?
I think what summed it up for me was at the Thanksgiving meal at the end of the book when Brian says 'You know it's really not that hard to put food on the table if that's what you decide to do.' These parents clearly decided not to do that for their children, nor to put a decent roof over their heads, nor to clothe them, nor to try to keep them safe - and yet they claimed to love them!
On the cover of my book it says 'Tragic and comic at the same time.' Well I must be missing something because I couldn't see anything comic at all!


message 21: by Christine US (new)

Christine US (christineus) | 572 comments I just don't get it. HOW could someone allow their children to live like this? At what point in time does someone not get that 'hhmm, maybe my dreams aren't the best thing for my family' and just stop with their stupidity and move on with being an adult.
I imagine it was hard for the father with his addicitions -- and I wanted to scream when she kept giving up control of the finances to him. When children are more adult then their parents, I find that unacceptable. I almost screamed when I heard of the property value -- and no belief of "this should be in the family" is acceptable in that case.
Maybe this just bothers me in general b/c (1) my sister's husband's sister's husband (can you follow that...my brother in law's brother in law) is out "chasing his dreams" and is failing miserably. He's been failing at it for years. And yet he won't give it up, and they have 2 kids in a teeny tiny apt b/c nothing less than beachfront, high end property is "good enough" for his imaginary career. I can just hear the stories my sister tells about them and it makes me angry.... and (2) I know my parents are good people with solid values and never EVER would have let us get in this situation. I can't comprehend how other parents aren't like mine - and it's lead me several times to be shocked when my friends (or even my husband) tell stories from their childhood.


message 22: by Kate (new)

Kate (klc23) | 162 comments I read Half-Broke Horses first (which I loved), and I'm glad I did, b/c it put the story in chronological order. I really enjoyed this book, but it was really difficult to read through parts. For me, this was a really inspiring story of beating the odds, and those kids really did. It's unforgivable the way the parents allowed their children to live in poverty and squalor, especially when they had the means to provide more, but I guess I've seen enough of those qualities in people throughout my life (thankfully not my own parents though) that it wasn't completely shocking. Just really really sad.


message 23: by Katelin (new)

Katelin | 70 comments Everyone is standing up for the dad because of his disease of alcoholism, but who's to say that the mom didn't have a mental disease? After I read the part that she was secretly eating a candy bar under a blanket when the kids hadn't eaten for days, you have to think that there is something wrong with her. Obviously, these people shouldn't have had children. And whatever happened to the child welfare man that promised to return?


message 24: by Bea (new)

Bea | 3924 comments I have read through all the comments and find that I have a different reaction altogether from most of you. I did not grow up as poor as the Walls. Neither did I have parents who wanted to be free of society norms as were Jeannette's, but somehow I am not shocked or upset. In some ways I marvel at the knowledge that both parents are shown as having in the desert days of the story. They were not uneducated people. They were people who opted out of what society felt was the norm. And, I think that both had many issues from their own upbringing (ie Erma and Grandma Smith weren't shining stars of parenting themselves).

Rose Mary probably was manic-depressive - at least many of descriptions of her actions lead me to think that is a possibility. And bipolar people do not honestly understand responsibility in the same was as normal people do. Rex was obviously an alcoholic who used his alcohol to escape his life. Again, not much sense of responsibility. And, I think both were smart enough people to manage to get by so that the system never quit got wind of them enough to intervene.

And the child welfare man...who knows. The system in many of the southern small towns/counties was as broken as the people.

The children survived and learned and struggled until they gained a life they were proud of....at least as far as we know. And, that is what I take from this book. Anyone who wants to better themselves can if they are willing to do what it takes to get there.

I can tell you that reading this book has made me appreciate my own life more. Although I am struggling to pay bills, I have a roof over my head, a job, food to eat, and many other blessings.


message 25: by Bea (new)

Bea | 3924 comments http://conversationsfamouswriters.blo...

This is the URL for an interview with Jeanette Walls. Thought some of you might like to read it.


message 26: by Katelin (new)

Katelin | 70 comments Bea wrote: "http://conversationsfamouswriters.blo...

This is the URL for an interview with Jeanette Walls. Thought some of you might like to read it."


Thanks for posting that. Very interesting!


message 27: by Kristen (new)

Kristen (kristenma) | 101 comments i found this book easy to read but it was truly a disturbing book. Talk about two people who should not have had kids. I am all for living the lifestyle that they lived had they not had 4 children to take care of. Everytime that I thought the parents couldn't do anything worse to Jeanette or her siblings, it seems like it was topped with something worse a few pages later.

One thing that really disturbed me was Jeanette's parents ignoring the sexual abuse that happened within the family. Also, Jeannette's father basically pimping the daughter to make some extra money. I was horrified at that part of the story. And when Jeanette's mother refused to sell the diamond ring and the land to make money to feed, clothe and shelter her children, I was disgusted.

I am glad that for the most part the children have turned out okay. I really don't know how they could forgive their parents for the way the were raised. Overall, I am glad that I read it but it was a difficult subject matter.


message 28: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 43 comments I loved this memoir - 5 stars!


message 29: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyy) | 92 comments I loved this memoir and I loved Walls' writing style. She writes as a journalist who has much love for her subjects. Her love is very clear throughout the story. This is what happened, and I love my family very much. Because as much craziness as there was in their lives, there was a lot of love. In fact, perhaps I'm crazy too, because I completely understood what Rex was saying when he said that the Walls kids were a lot luckier than other kids. They DID have a lot of love and cameraderie in their house. Their parents were severely flawed and sick, but they loved their children very much. It would have broken their hearts (and mine) if the child welfare man had taken them away. I thought it was wonderful how Rex gave them each a star for Christmas. I actually truly loved this family, despite and because of their flaws.


message 30: by Kate (new)

Kate | 15 comments I really enjoyed the rhythm and flow of this book. I did find myself stopping at points flabbergasted by the events that occurred. I would like to believe that the parents were not selfish and that they did love their children, but I'm not sure I am completely convinced.


message 31: by Donna Jo (new)

Donna Jo Atwood | 3157 comments When I reread this book for the challenge, I was just as appalled as the first time. I know children are very adaptable and accepting of things, but that doesn't mean it is right. What kind of a loving mother brushes off a rat attack on her baby by saying "Rats have to eat, too."
Yes, the father was wonderfully good at educating his children and allowed them to expand as individuals, but he also seriously endangered them too. I don't think children should be coddled to the point of never allowing them to try anything, but this couple went far beyond that point.


message 32: by Ashley FL (new)

Ashley FL | 732 comments Maybe it's just me, but it was always my impression that the sister who sort of "escaped" to the other family (and ended up seeming the most broken) may be have been subjected to sexual abuse in that other family. Like she was forced to make a horrible choice, and eating won out.

I'm not sure I believe that any of those kids are "normal". But she seems the saddest case of all, to me.


message 33: by Julie (new)

Julie (scrapsofhistory) So many things about this book disturbed me. First of all, the "rugged individualism" that the parents expect from their children, they are never allowed to be kids, they have to be the parents. The thing that is most relevant is that the three older kids were very close, but I think they were so close in age they were used to taking care of themselves, and by the time Maureen comes along they don't feel a connection with her.
The issues with sexual abuse in the book disturbed me, the fact that almost all of the kids had suffered some form from different members of the family, this really associated itself with "poor" mountain people.

Overall I liked the book, even though it dealt with so many issues.


message 34: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (lambfox) | 187 comments I was so impressed with the straightforward delivery of the story, and think it's wonderful that she was able to tell her life this way. It made it so much easier to sort out how I felt about the people and the situations, to have, for the most part, judgment removed from the author's perspective. Incredible that she was able to do it, where it must have been tempting to defend, to rail, to explain, or to speculate.


message 35: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Cover2CoverBlog (stephcover2cover) | 53 comments I am about half way through this book, I only started a few days ago and I love it. I normally don't read memoirs because they are so depressing and while parts of this one make me very upset I am enthralled with the way that Ms. Walls tells her story. It is so blunt and almost detached that I am surprised.

Her dad makes me sick and I can only imagine the hardships that occurred and its hard to imagine if anything was kept out of this memoir. I think that given her circumstances she has done very well, sadly never being a child seems disappointing.

She made me start thinking about myself and family in an interesting way, and I may try more memoirs.

Overall, so far, I have enjoyed this book, it is very easy to read, almost like short stories however very emotionally charged ones (although her emotions are very well hidden).


message 36: by Gayla (last edited May 16, 2011 07:33AM) (new)

Gayla Bassham (sophronisba) I thought the book was very well-written and I agree that you get very invested in the kids' lives and really root for them to do well. The parents, as depicted, are truly horrifying. I actually sympathized more with the mother than with the father.

Having said that, my big problem with this as a memoir is that I'm not sure I believe all of it as presented. There were a couple of red flags for me: in the first section she is supposed to be so young that it is really hard for me to believe that she remembers everything so specifically. Secondly, the scene in which she is writing a story and her father tells her to "juice it up" made me question whether she was doing that (consciously or unconsciously) in the memoir.


message 37: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 78 comments This was a reread for me. The first time I read it I was so disturbed and yet so in awe that she not only survived, but that 3 of the 4 kids managed to breakout of that life. This time I knew what to expect, and was able to focus more on the fact that she has been able to find the good in her parents and forgive them. Well worth the time to read it again.


message 38: by Coralie (new)

Coralie | 2075 comments I spent the entire Welch section in anger. They could have been absolutely wonderful parents if only they had some sense of responsibility. If you have children you really should make some effort to at least see that they have appropriate food. They were intelligent people, so I don't accept any excuses.


message 39: by Katie (new)

Katie (katieisallbooked) | 263 comments Wow. This book was so powerful. My mom read this last year and said it was basically the story of her childhood, written by someone else. I think that made it even more heartbreaking for me.


message 40: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (stacita) | 241 comments I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" reading this, per se, but it wa swell written and I'm glad that I did read it.


message 41: by Diane (new)

Diane | 742 comments Wonderfully written book. It made my family seem a bit less dysfunctional. It is just amazing how she was able to overcome (and survive) such a childhood and turn out so well. I look forward to reading Half-Broke Horses.


message 42: by Chris (last edited Jun 03, 2011 02:46PM) (new)

Chris | 31 comments I read Half-Broke Horses first and think I liked it more because while some bad stuff happened to Walls' grandmother, she was never as truly fu**d the hell up as her daughter.
I grew up in a screwy situation where my parents were screwed-up in many ways. My father was bipolar and constantly in denial and also (as I have recently found out) a coke addict. He was always back and forth between jobs because he would blow up on his bosses and there were times where our power and phone would get cut off and we didn't get new clothes for years at a time. He was also abusive to my mother who had her own problems going on. She was always pretty hippie-ish and he stifled her creativity, blah, blah, blah, but basically she was in a crappy situation and would never stand up to him. Later on, she had a lot of medical problems she was forced to deal with alone and now has a pot/painkiller addiction. Such was my life. I'm not asking for pity but I do understand the situation Walls was in. There's a point where you realize that if you want your life to get any better, you'll have to do it yourself. I feel that's where these kids were. And even if you don't have the best parents in the world, they're still people you've known all your life and you come to love things about them. The easier choice is always to hate them, it takes a lot more to realize that they are the people who they are and while you can't change them, you can still love their positive attributes without enforcing the negative ones. My mom has since gotten out of the situation and improved her own life, but only after I was kicked out at 17 and had to make my own way in life. A few years after I got back on my feet, she was able to as well. Now we have a great relationship and while we don't always agree on things, she is still my mother and I know she will always have my back.
What I think was the best part of Walls' book is that she was also able to reach that point and bring out the good and bad parts of her parents with love and no bitterness. That is a hard place to get to.


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