Book Review of
The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever. Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
This book was one of my favorite books of 2016. But it is one of those books that I hesitated to say I enjoyed it. I did enjoy it, but it is a tough book. It covers some hard real life stuff. I have heard people say that this book is at points hard to believe. And while I understand that point, I disagree with it. I think this book covers reality for far too many people. Most people either don’t realize it is going on or they don’t want to see it. If you want a real life look into a very dysfunctional family, this book will give it to you. If you think your family is the only messed up dysfunctional family. This book will remind you that it isn’t. This book is a tough read and not one for young kids, but I do think more people should read this book and others like it. I also wish more authors were willing to share their stories. Sharing stories like this is tough, but it is hard to show the reality of these things if we never talk about them. This book forces issues that are all to often hidden.