Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Glass Castle

Book: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Like/Don't Like: Very good. I liked it a lot.

Have I told you how great my parents are? They never once made us live in a house with no plumbing. They never made us leave our home in the middle of the night to escape from bill collectors or the police. They bought us food on a regular basis so we wouldn't have to dig through the trash cans in the school bathrooms for something to eat. These are things I never even considered as attributes, but I also never had Jeannette Walls' parents, who did all of these things and more.

Jeannette Walls was a gossip columnist living in New York City when she was on her way to a fancy party and saw her mom digging in a dumpster. Up until that point she had hidden the fact that her parents were living on the streets from just about everyone because she was afraid that people would think she was a monster for allowing that to happen. The next time she saw her mom she asked her what she should tell people and her mom said to just tell the truth. So she wrote her memoirs about growing up in poverty with a genius father who was also a raging alcoholic and a mother who would rather be an artist than look after her 4 kids. The book is filled with really horrible stories about neglect. Her parents loved her but seemed to be incapable of caring for her. They moved from town to town, always staying in places that were barely inhabitable. Her parents seemed oblivious to their kids' suffering, which was incredibly frustrating to read about. And when they did see what they were doing to their family it was heartbreaking to read about their shame. Particularly her dad.

The impressive part about this memoir is that there is very little blame placed. She doesn't seem bitter or angry. She has a very light style and writes about horrific experiences like they happen to everyone, which, considering the subject, was a blessing to read. I can't imagine being able to finish a book like this if it had taken a more dramatic tone. She doesn't seem to want any sympathy - although you can't help but feel it - she just seems to want to explain how it all happened. And because of that you don't see her or her parents as monsters, just people with problems who are doing the best they know how.


Stephanie said...

I loved reading this book, but I wasn't as nice as you. I felt very angry - at the father especially. It was terribly surprising to me that those kids turned out relatively normal. It was something I thought about for a long time after reading it - wishing it was fiction and knowing that it wasn't.

Rach said...

When I read it I was completely horrified at what those poor kids had to endure. I was especially angry at the mother, especially after I read the story of the chocolate bar under the covers. But I also know a few people that have barely escaped ending up like her parents, thanks to the Gospel and some very good friends. So I feel a little sympathy, and also feel like there was some mental illness involved. I think the message of the book was hope, because what it showed was that no matter how awful and neglectful your parents are, you can rise above it and seize opportunities to make your life better. I think the attitude that is more common is that you can blame your lack of success on your parents, your upbringing, and your environment. And, like you pointed out, she didn't assign blame, and she and most of her siblings rose above their circumstances by helping each other. And you're right--it was told in a factual but light way.

Marilyn said...

Hello. I don't know you (or do I?), but I know Emily (Richards? forgot married name, sorry) and found this link through her. And I just wanted to say that I like your reviews very much (I particularly felt like you captured my feelings exactly about "The Dark Knight") so thank you for posting them. Well done.