Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Glass Castle

This is one of those books you hate to love.
“I WAS SITTING IN a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster,” begins The Glass Castle. Jeannette Wells tells us of her unusual (and very tramatic) childhood growing up with her brilliant yet alcoholic father and her artsy non-nurturing mother. As the book progresses I find myself amazed as each of the children beat the odds. It is a poignant story that no matter your own personal childhood you can find something in these stories of tragedy, humor, resilience, and triumph.

Amazon.com Review

Amazon.com Review

Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents' knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them--despite their overwhelming self-absorption--resonates from cover to cover.

7 comments:

Karen said...

Loved this book!

Beverly said...

Now I can't wait to read Half Broke Horse- by the same author about her mother! I loved Glass Castle, hoping her next is just as good!

Suko said...

Great, concise review (although I am not sure all the children did beat the odds)!

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