The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Published by Scribner in 2006
First Scribner Trade Paperback Edition, 288 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0-743-24754-2
You can’t kill something just because it’s wild.
Oh wow, I have so many feelings about this book. This was my first time reading The Glass Castle. In all honesty, I didn’t even realize it was a memoir until I sat down with it and really took a look at the blurb on the back. I’ve been hearing about this book for ages and the fact that it’s getting a movie finally pushed me to read it NOW. So when I saw a used copy for sale at a bookstore recently, I couldn’t help but pick it up.
The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls that focuses mainly on her relationships with her family. Jeannette had an atypical upbringing; her father was a manic alcoholic and her mother spent most of her time daydreaming instead of parenting. Jeannette and her siblings had to raise each other and often had to go without food and proper shelter.
I could hear people around us whispering about the crazy drunk man and his dirty little urchin children, but who cared what they thought? None of them had ever had their hand licked by a cheetah.
Jeannette perfectly conveys the intricacies of the difficult relationships we sometimes have with the people we love. In many ways, Jeannette’s father reminded me of my own and reading her story hit harder to home than I expected it would. While there are countless differences between her experience and mine, I can relate to some of the things she has dealt with and I can understand loving someone in spite of things that could be seen as unforgivable by others.
She was keeping it, she explained, to replace the wedding ring her mother had given her, the one Dad had pawned shortly after they got married.
“But Mom,” I said, “that ring could get us a lot of food.”
“That’s true,” Mom said, “but it could also improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food.”
While I deeply appreciated the story, the writing itself fell flat for me at times. Jeannette is descriptive and often paints a full picture of the scenes in her life, but at the same time she feels somewhat removed. Her story is told matter-of-factly, often with little emotion. While this is commendable in some ways, it also made it hard for me to really get into the story at some points. Although I may have struggled for a bit, I did find myself quickly devouring the last third of the book.
Overall, Jeannette presents a fascinating, well-written story that I would recommend to all.