The Glass Castle – Review
Originally published: 2005
The dice landed on: 6
Did I finish?: Oh, yes!
Do I like the cover?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: Jeannette Walls writes about growing up with alcoholic, but intelligent dad, want-to-be-artist mother, two sisters and a brother.
Jeannette’s parents married in 1956. He was a dashing young officer in the air force and she was an intelligent, artistic young woman who’d trained as a teacher. After getting married he left the air force to better support a family. This could be the start of a stable life with children and good jobs, but that was not the way it turned out.
Jeannette spent her younger years moving around in the desert areas in the western US, relocating every time her dad lost his job and started owing too many people money. The moves usually came without warning, the kids usually only got to take one thing, and longer stays than a few months were a rarity. Rex called every move an adventure and said it was to get away from F.B.I that was too interested in his doings.
The family life was a strange mix of neglect and care. Many basic needs were being neglected, including food and health care, while the parents also stressed the importance of learning. They always had books around and the children could all read and were doing well in school, when they went to one. The family was always poor, getting poorer as time went by, and any money was spent more on alcohol and art supplies than for food and clothes.
After leaving home, if it could be called home, it’s clear that Jeannette, and her siblings, still love their parents. They are exasperated by them, ashamed of them, and certainly aware that a certain distance is necessary for their own survival. But, they do love them.
So, this sounds like a book that could be full of self-pity, therapy sessions as an adult and loathing for her parents that let them grow up in such hardship. But it isn’t. Jeannette Walls tells the story in a very straight forward manner and manages to convey both the magic times and the increasing hardship as the family slid further and futher into poverty. The details and the tone change as she herself grows older, the magic fades as she understands more of the reality of what goes on, but self-pity and blame never takes center stage.
Very much worth reading.