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The Glass Castle (a memoir,THE GLASS CASTLE)…

The Glass Castle (a memoir,THE GLASS CASTLE) (edition 2005)

by Jeannette Walls

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Title:The Glass Castle (a memoir,THE GLASS CASTLE)
Authors:Jeannette Walls
Info:Scribner (2005), Paperback, 289 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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» See also 683 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 648 (next | show all)
This was one of the most infuriating books I've ever read. Her parents... I have no words, or any good ones anyway. The book is written really well. Wells definitely has a way with words. I see a movie was just released. I only hope they don't romanticize it and tell the true story. ( )
  Crystal423 | Aug 22, 2017 |
The Glass Castle is an extremely well-written autobiography: the author manages to portray a childhood of abusive and criminal neglect with compassion and humor and an encyclopedic memory for humanizing detail. ( )
  bexaplex | Aug 13, 2017 |
Jeannette caught my attention on the first page. She is a great writer. I can't imagine how hard it was to tell her own story. It is not a light read, by no means. It is about her dysfunctional family, alcoholism, child neglect and abuse. Very well done. ( )
  Sandralb | Jul 28, 2017 |
I was cold for half of the book

And hungry for more than that. Walls tells the story of a truly impoverished childhood without flinching and with evident love for the self absorbed neglectful parents that raised her and her sibling on a diet of dreams, lies and broken promises. It isn't always an easy story. But, it has a satisfactory ending. ( )
  Kitty.Cunningham | Jul 19, 2017 |
Why did I wait so long to read this?! This book is superb and so good that it’s going to now be hard finding something good enough to read next. I wanted so badly to finish it and yet I didn’t want it to end.

Wow! This is one of those times when I cannot write a review that does justice to the book. It’s hard for me to get anything down actually. So what I write might come across as incoherent.

The writing and especially the storytelling is stellar. This author’s personal & family story is fascinating. The account is a page-turner. Even though it was difficult to put down, I really appreciated that there were short sections throughout and therefore frequent perfect places to put down the book and stop reading for a while. Of course, the short sections also made it easy to read just one or two or three more.

It’s really hard to write a review of a book that’s about someone else’s life. Of course I had opinions and feelings about every person. I think that the author does at least indirectly imply what it was about the mix of experiences she and her family members had that led to how they turned out, but I’d have liked even more of that. Then again, her mother had said to just tell the truth, just say what happened, and she did that. She did it well. I couldn’t help doing some of my own thinking though. Of course, the story was so engaging that most of the time I just immersed myself in it.

The author presents a lot of good with the bad and I’m in awe of how she did that and also of how she coped and how she took actions on her own behalf. She’s exceptionally skilled at painting portraits of the people in her life and also of herself.

Thank goodness for all the humor in the account because there was so, so much that was grim. Tragic, scary, infuriating.

The author’s very short stint living in San Francisco warranted the book going on my San Francisco shelf. She described the city/ocean beach area so well. I’m about 7 years older than the author, and lived in the city at the time and knew it and the area well.

I would have loved more photos (though I wonder how many could have been taken during the author’s childhood years, especially her early years.) The only photos included are a wedding photo of her parents and a photo of the author in the present day on the cover as part of the author biography section.

If I have any more than minor criticism of the book, it’s that I thought it ended way too abruptly, although I guess wanting more and wanting more details shows how invested I was in the author’s life story. Also the “no recriminations” comment Jeannette directed at Brian in the last section, while I agree it wouldn’t have been good timing, rubbed me the wrong way. I’m obviously a lot angrier about what she and her siblings went through than she is. There was good with the bad, but the bad was glaring. A very eventful and highly unusual childhood and coming of age!

I’m putting the rest of this review in spoiler tags partly because I at least allude to some life events of the author & her family members, but mostly because I’ve expressed my feelings/opinions about how I feel about them, and other readers are likely to want to form their own opinions without my sentiments & judgments intruding. The following are more “notes to myself” and possibly springboards for discussion with others who’ve read the book rather than a continuation of a review. Dithering ramblings that I do consider major spoilers:

I so identified with so much of Jeannette’s life. While I definitely didn’t experience the worst of what she did, I also didn’t experience some of the best. I do identify a lot with what this family went through. It was a bit too close to home despite great differences with specific experiences.

The parents were so intelligent and creative and I did appreciate how the father was loving (at least until his alcoholism got really bad) and taught the kids so many things. The mother, even if it was for utterly selfish reasons and even thought it was inappropriate, did teach her kids to be self-reliant and she modeled a lot of creativity, though maybe not in a less destructive way than that of their father. They were both amazingly good home-schoolers given that all the kids read at such early ages, learned many things and learned how to think, and that showed by how well they could do when thrust into public schools. Pretty amazing.

I found both parents incredibly frustrating. Despite the father’s alcoholism that got so bad and all that went with it was atrocious, the mother drove me crazier. The incidents of extreme selfishness were so extreme. Her inability to even want to mother or to provide even basics for her 4 kids I just can’t get over. Finding out what I found out near the end of the book made me even angrier. I know both parents had mental health issues, but even though there was a strong family bond between family members, I can’t quite figure out the loyalty shown to the parents.

I can’t imagine how the kids did so well given how much chronic malnutrition they experienced over many years.

Mostly I had major sibling envy. Brian has got to be the most ideal brother. The friendship between those two is wonderful. I love Lori’s sarcastic sense of humor. Jeannette captured their personalities so well. The way the kids had each other and the gumption they exhibited and self-reliance and how they took care of one another and the family is laudable and enviable too.

I worry terribly about Maureen, and I did even before the portions near the end. She was so much younger than the other kids and think had even worse parenting and didn’t have the closeness with her three siblings the way they did with each other. I also hadn’t gotten a good feeling for who she was/is and think maybe that’s because the author didn’t know her that well, though maybe it was a good thing she got to spend so much time with friends and other families.

ETA: I was so curious so I googled Jeannette and her siblings right after I finished this review and I’m flummoxed that the mother lives on the property of the author & her husband, in a separate dwelling, but even so. I am kind of in awe of the author and hope that she’s as okay now as she presents. I’m also almost as worried about Maureen as I was as I was reading the book.

And yeah, it feels funny to evaluate the people but that’s what I do when reading biographies.

Mostly I envy their strength and closeness/togetherness, and their intelligence, and the way they were able to survive, and how they’ve managed to create satisfying adult lives. I’m grateful I didn’t suffer their level of extreme neglect and deprivation. And, I thought I’d lost a lot but it was nothing compared to the “you can take one thing with you” they experienced.

When I read that they were the poorest of the families in their very poor area, that got to me, and hit me even harder after Jeannette learns what she learns from her mother that’s related to the reader near the end of the book.

It’s an excellent book and I’m happy that I finally got it off my to read shelf. ( )
  Lisa2013 | Jun 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 648 (next | show all)
''The Glass Castle'' falls short of being art, but it's a very good memoir. At one point, describing her early literary tastes, Walls mentions that ''my favorite books all involved people dealing with hardships.'' And she has succeeded in doing what most writers set out to do -- to write the kind of book they themselves most want to read.
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Dark is a way and light is a place,
Heaven that never was
Nor will be ever is always true
-Dylan Thomas
"Poem on His Birthday"
To John, for convincing me that everyone who is interesting has a past
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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.
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Book description
The author recalls her life growing up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father and distant mother and describes how she and her siblings had to fend for themselves until they finally found the resources and will to leave home.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 074324754X, Paperback)

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.

An exclusive Q&A with Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

Q: How long did it take you to write The Glass Castle and what was that process like?

A: Writing about myself, and about intensely personal and potentially embarrassing experiences, was unlike anything I’d done before. Over the last 25 years, I wrote many versions of this memoir -- sometimes pounding out 220 pages in a single weekend. But I always threw out the pages. At one point I tried to fictionalize it, but that didn't work either.

When I was finally ready, I wrote it entirely on the weekends, getting to my desk by 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. and continuing until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. I wrote the first draft in about six weeks -- but then I spent three or four years rewriting it. My husband, John Taylor, who is also a writer, observed all this approvingly and quoted John Fowles, who said that a book should be like a child: conceived in passion and reared with care.

Q: How did you decide to follow The Glass Castle with Half Broke Horses?

A: It was completely at the suggestion of readers. So many people kept saying the next book should be about my mother. Readers understood my father's recklessness because they understood alcoholism, but Mom was a mystery to them. Why, they would ask, would someone with the resources to lead a normal life choose the existence that she did?

I would tell them a little bit about my mother’s childhood. She not only knew that she could survive without indoor plumbing, but that was the ideal period of her life, a time that she tries to recreate. I think that for memoir readers, it's not about a freak show– they’re just looking to understand people and get into a life that’s not their own. I thought, let me give it a shot, let me ask Mom. And she was all for it. But she kept insisting that the book should really be about her mother. At first I resisted because my grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, died when I was eight years old, more than 40 years ago. But I have a very vivid memory of this tough, leathery woman; she sang, she danced, she shot guns, she’d play honky tonk piano. I was always captivated by her. Lily had told such compelling stories—I was stunned by the number of anecdotes, and that Mom knew so much detail about them. Half Broke Horses is a compilation of family stories, stitched together with gaps filled in. They're the sort of tales that pretty much everyone has heard from their parents or grandparents. I realized that in telling Lily's story, I could also explain Mom's.

Q: Why did you decide to write Half Broke Horses in the first person, and how much of this "true-life novel" is fiction?

A: I set out to write a biography of Lily, but sometimes books take on a life of their own. I told it in first person because I wanted to capture Lily’s voice. I’m a lot like my grandmother, so it came easily to me. I planned to go back and change it from first person to third person and put in qualifiers so the book would be historically accurate, but when I showed it to my agent and publisher, they both said to leave it as it is. By doing that, I crossed the line from nonfiction into fiction. But when I call it fiction it’s not because I tarted it up and tried to embellish things, but wanted to make it more readable, fluid, and immediate. I was trying to get as close to the truth as I could.

Q: How has your relationship with your mother changed in recent years?

A: Several years ago, the abandoned building on New York’s Lower East Side where Mom had been squatting for more than a decade caught fire and she was back on the streets again at age 72. I begged her to come live with me. She said Virginia was too boring, and besides, she's not a freeloader. I told her we could really use help with the horses, and she said she'd be right there. I get along great with Mom now. She's a hoot. She's always upbeat, and has a very different take on life than most people. She's a lot of fun to be around -- as long as you're not looking for her to take care of you. She doesn’t live in the house with us-- I have not reached that level of understanding and compassion-- but in an outbuilding about a hundred yards away. Mom is great with the animals, loves to sing and dance and ride horses, and is still painting like a fiend.

Q: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your books?

A:Since writing The Glass Castle, so many people have said to me, "Oh, you’re so strong and you’re so resilient, and I couldn’t do what you did." That’s very flattering, but it’s nonsense. Of course they’re as strong as I am. I just had the great fortune of having been tested. If we look at our ancestry, we all come from tough roots. And one of the ways to discover our toughness and our resiliency is to look back at where we come from. I hope people who read The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses will come away with that. You know, "Gosh, I come from hearty stock. Maybe I’m tougher than I realize."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the tradition of Mary Karr's "The Liars' Club" and Rick Bragg's "All Over But the Shouting," Jeannette Walls has written a stunning and life-affirming memoir about surviving a willfully impoverished, eccentric and severely misguided family. The child of an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother discusses her family's nomadic upbringing, during which she and her siblings fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.… (more)

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