Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is a memoir that I read for my library book club.

Jeannette Walls' growing up was like none other I have read thus far, including Bragg and Fuller. She lived through a series of outlandish events imposed upon her by her father, who was on the brink of genious and insanity, driven more toward insanity by his drinking, and her self-indulgent, cannot-be-bothered mother. This amounted to a life of abuse and neglect that, incredibly, especially during her earlier childhood years, was portrayed as always creative and sometimes fun and magical.

Set partly in the desert of the western United States, the equally harsh, flooded and flurried landscape of Virgina, and ultimately New York City, Walls and her siblings are part of a nomadic family that is Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt if they were, instead of millionaire movie stars, tragic figures living in poverty in the saddest of sad stories that even Shakespeare would refuse to put down on paper. However, to call these parents tragic neglects their responsibility for their plight, and for the precarious positions in which they place their children all throughout this legend-like reckoning of events that is worthy of Faulkner.

Though I summon great minds of fiction, Walls' tales are memoir, non-fiction. Walls' account starts with her earliest memory, boiling water for hot dogs at the age of three, and continues with a series of individual tales that are ridiculous to the point, at times, of comedy. Take, for instance, when Walls' fashions a set of braces using a rubberband, a device her father admires, thus approves.

Many reviewers might count the Walls children's perserverance, intelligence, and ability to stick together toward their survival. I would give these matters of character credit as well, but I also believe that there is an element to these events that defies human understanding or involvement, something like luck or grace.

Because of Walls' brilliant ability to tell a story straight forward, even a difficult one, the reader is able to not only get through this collection of memories, but, from it, be encouraged to survive and thrive in their own individual way. - 4 stars


L said...

I've heard alot of good things about this book. She had an amazing life, and she's not that old. You'd think that kind of life style would've taken place during the 60's, but wasn't it the 70's-80's? What a story.

Rebecca Reid said...

I absolutely loved this book too. Amazing life, and what I loved about it was that she wasn't bitter: despite what her parents did, she loved them and her life.

Kailana said...

I really liked this book! I was a little worried because when I read it the news was still of the 'Million Little Pieces' mess, but it was good!

Amber said...

Yeah, I thought of the Little Pieces thing too. Apparently there's an interview somewhere off of her website that includes her mother. A lady in my book club said that she looked like "a bag lady." That could've been an actor, but, I don't know, I believe this story.

Amanda said...

My kids' school district held this huge used book sale today, and I found this book right before we left so I picked it up. I'd never heard of it before this review.