Book: The Glass Castle

**This review does contain mild spoilers, but those spoilers will not ruin the reader’s enjoyment of ths book**

This was my book club’s pick for last month. I didn’t get a chance to read it but still went to the discussion event. Just hearing the women talk about the book made me realize this was a book I couldn’t skip – so as soon as I finished the book I was reading at the time, I started reading “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls.


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.

Wow – what a story. Frank McCourt’s childhood memoir of life in Ireland and the tenements of NYC in the 1950s was a sad tale of hopeless parents living miserable lives together. Jeanette Walls’ childhood memoir of life in Arizona and West Virginia in the 1970s is a sad tale of hopeful parents living miserable lives together. HOPEFUL parents. Jeannette Walls’ parents are so absolutely content in their nearly-homeless living that I had only reached page 48 when I wanted to punch the father in the head and scream at the mother for being so lovingly neglectful of their four young children (including an infant) as to put them in the back of a dark UHaul truck to drive 14 hours from one ramshackle town to another.

Despite my absolute frustration during the entire book, it was a well-narrated story. Through the needless and pointless hardships this family faced, the writer never romanticizes the facts (which Frank McCourt sometimes did). In fact, I felt that while a bit simplistic in description, Jeannette Walls was so balanced in her storytelling that it’s almost as if she’s just recounting a news story as opposed to her own childhood melodrama.

Her parents were undoubtedly the most frustrating people I’ve ever read about in my life. Especially since there was absolutely NO REASON for the family to be living in a shack with no insulation, no running water and no electricity. The mother was a talented artist (find the YouTube clip about the book and you’ll see some sample of the mother’s work – she isn’t horrible) and also had a teaching certificate. The father was obviously very bright – a genius – but the drink was more enticing than holding down a job. And not only that – but the fact that the mother had the ability to bring her family out of squalor on SO MANY OCCASIONS. She inherited two homes and opted to live in the dilapidated one filled with roaches. She owned land in the midwest from which she received monthly checks from the government for allowing them access. And what land – land that had SUCH VALUE that the family could have been set for life.

If I had more time in the day to dedicate to reading, I would have had this book read VERY QUICKLY. It is well-told, well-written and a fascinating study about a family of misfits who have a strange love for each other and a surprisingly optimistic outlook on life.

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