Jeannette Walls’ “The Glass Castle”

Synopsis: Jeannette Walls is a young girl, living in a poverty-stricken household.  The unusual upbringing for her and her siblings came at the hands of their brutally dysfunctional parents.

Walls takes us through a journey of her entire life.  From child, to adult.  As with most memoirs, we learn of the hardships and triumphs of ones life.  However, this memoir leaves few triumphs between the turmoil that Walls and her siblings endured.

Outlook: This was one of the first biographies, or memoirs I ever read.  Browsing through my favorite genre on Goodreads, I purchased it on a whim.  Walls tells us in detail about her life, mainly revolving around the insanity of her father, Rex, and mother Rose Mary.

When I read this book, I often would put my finger in the middle of the chapter, close the book, and just think.  I put myself in Walls’ place.  Often thinking “What would I have done if this were me?” Looking at my life now, and thinking of my past, I couldn’t possibly have had the strength to look after my siblings, let alone find the strength to continue with life.  Moreover, I simply didn’t have the street smarts that Walls’ carried with her.  I suppose, I was never tested.  She developed these traits as a necessity for survival.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder.

“What if my parents spent money on alcohol and cigarettes, instead of getting me braces?”

“What if my parents thought they were destined for something greater, and didn’t put their children first?”

Would I have been able to adapt to that situation as Walls did? Her strength is that of awe.  When one looks in the mirror and is unhappy with their appearance, most of us sit in a depressive stooper, thinking there is nothing we can do about it.  Walls rises to the challenge, and begins finding own ways to better herself with what she is given.  Even admitting to herself on many occasions that she was unhappy with her body in various ways, she still pushes forward to remedy her situation.  That one trait alone, is such a rarity.

Throughout her memoir, Walls’ father Rex often mentions how he will build for her a glass castle.  Soon they will have money, and they will make a grand house for the family to live.  They will stop moving around, or living in cars, or sleeping on a roach infested floor.  Walls firmly grasps this hope her entire life, often realizing the empty promise.  Still, she pushes on.

Walls concludes her memoir on a positive note, while looking back at her childhood with her brothers and sisters.  Everyone has to take their own journey, and find what they want out of life.

I think there comes a time for everyone, when we realize how short life truly is.

This was one of the first memoirs I ever read, and since then has been my go-to genre when looking at used, or new books.  It’s a privilege to hold someones entire life in your hand, and to know that the author wants to share that journey with the reader.

The Glass Castle spent 261 weeks as a New York Times bestseller, and in some North American schools is now part of the English curriculum.

Featured image courtesy of “Simon and Schuster”

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