The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Plot: “The Walls children grew up with a drunk father and a free spirited mother. Their nomadic lifestyle and unconventional childhood is told through the memories of Jeannette Walls.”
Review: There are some books that you connect with instantly. They open you up and shake you to the core. And when you turn the last page you feel almost mournful, as if you’ve lost a friend who knew a part of you that others never could. This book was both joyful and bittersweet to read. It’s been sitting on my shelf for months, waiting for me to be emotionally ready to read. I knew that I had to be in a certain mindset, preparing to go on a journey to the past, both with the author, and myself.
I had a very unconventional childhood, to say the least. It’s a part of my life that I do not like talking about, or remembering. That’s why I honestly had a hard time starting this book. I knew it was about the author’s unconventional childhood, and that would trigger a response in me. I probably would not have been able to read this book five years ago. Now, I am in a much better place, and mindset, to tackle this book. And I’m really glad that I did, because this was hands down my favorite book I’ve read so far this year.
Jeannette Walls is a helluva talented writer. Her memories about growing up, starting when she is three years old and ending well into adulthood, flow together effortlessly. It’s the nonchalant way that she recalls these events that make them almost less horrifying. This book could have been way darker, if a different writer had written the same stories. It’s because there’s no judgement in the storytelling. Jeannette is stating the facts; her father was a drunk, her mother was an artist, they would move suddenly in the middle of the night, they would go without food and clean clothes. Yes, her and her siblings never went to a dentist and were often bullied at school for being poor, but they were loyal to each other and protected one another. Her parents may have had questionable parenting skills, but they did love their children, and to Jeannette that means something.
The Glass Castle shows a snap shot of an American lower class family, that is seldom represented in literature. People who live without electricity, and families that go hungry, those are still everyday occurrences for some. I believe more stories like this should be told, to educate about this other side of American life. To people like me, it makes all the difference to know that I wasn’t alone in my experiences. Reading how Jeannette rose above her poverty stricken childhood to lead a happy and normal life, gives me hope that your past doesn’t dictate your future.
Recommendation: Read it. Better yet, read it and give it to someone else to read. I’m planning on having my office book club read it next month. I have found that my anxiety about this book has dissipated. It’s showed me that embracing your past makes you stronger, not weaker, and less alone.