Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Glass Castle by: Jeannette Walls

I initially picked this book up when I worked at the bookstore. It was definitely a hot item, but with the hub bub of life it unfortunately got put on the back burner. I’d see it pop up from time to time and mentally put it back to the front of my “to read” mental list but never got around to it until last week. The Glass Castle is American writer and journalist Jeannette Walls’ Memoir. The book opens with
 “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster”.

         You immediately push on with the mental gasp of What?! echoing in your head. Jeanette then takes you back to her childhood. Jeannette’s father, Rex, is an alcoholic. He is unable to keep a steady job and often has views on the government, life, and entrepreneurial pursuits that border eccentricity and complete lunacy. Jeannette’s mother is an artist whose struggle for artistic freedom and recognition is often blamed on the children and the life she has. Both parents’ preoccupation with their own struggles and life pursuits often takes priority over the children. The family moves from place to place, often leaving in the middle of the night, and sleeping in card board boxes on the beach. When Rex is sober he often encourages his children’s creativity, but those windows are few and far between. While the parenting of both parents is definitely in question, the children’s upbringing was full of books, education, and “lessons” on self-sufficiency.
      Jeannette has an older sister Lori, one brother Brian, and a baby sister Maureen. With parents often time absent, mentally and physically, the children often protect and support one another. In fact when Jeannette finally gets the chance to leave the family and pursue her dreams, she gives the opportunity to her sister Lori. There’s another time in the book where the children are starving and they’re all sitting together with their mother and she keeps disappearing under the blanket and coming back up. Brian the brother, gets up and yanks the blanket away from her to reveal an open chocolate bar that she’s been eating. Immediately Brian grabs what’s left of the chocolate bar and divides it among the children. Their mom immediately starts crying, saying that she’s addicted to sweets just like their father is to alcohol. There are so many scenes like this in the book that are more baffling that really make you think, what does that do to a child? And What is wrong with those parents? The children, grow up not only to survive their childhood but prosper in their own right. Almost to the point where you think to yourself, maybe the parents “lessons” on self-sufficiency weren’t all that bad. Almost.

You would think this read, with the description and synopsis would be heavy and depressing, but the voice in which Jeannette writes this memoir is beautiful. There is no malice, judgment, or self-deprecation, just a voice that depicts what is with honesty.  Everything that is, just is, without a hint of remorse or apology. I loved this book. I loved that it left me with feeling and thought. Thought on life and the pursuit of happiness, and feeling on how interesting life, circumstance and we as people are. Definitely a read I think everyone would benefit from. I loved this interview with her about her book. She encourages everyone to write their own story, and the more I think about the more I think everyone should. I know I want to read my moms story, my sisters and my friends. All in all a good book. 


Anonymous said...

Great review! I read this book a few years ago and still remember how horrified I was by the living conditions of these poor kids and the mother who fell through the cracks and didn't get the proper help. Wow, it makes us thankful for our lives even when things don't always go right.

KIKA said...

@R Hunt. Well said, thanks for stopping by!

Customer recommendations for Alaska Real Estate said...

Jeannette Walls memoir proves that courage and intelligence can overcome the effects of a severely dysfunctional upbringing.