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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle (edition 2005)

by Jeannette Walls

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13,371587165 (4.16)651
Title:The Glass Castle
Authors:Jeannette Walls
Info:Scribner (2005), Edition: First, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, 2013

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls


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English (579)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (586)
Showing 1-5 of 579 (next | show all)
A compelling memoir of a dysfunctional family. In some places it is horrifying, in others endearing...I couldn't put it down! ( )
  mfdavis | May 20, 2015 |
This is one of those books that is really difficult to evaluate and give a rating to. One cannot really say they enjoy it, as there is some really messed up stuff in this book, but in the end Jeannette Walls' story is so inspiring, I could not help but feel as though I came away a better person from reading the book. Not good for those who are easily bothered by stories of dysfunctional families, as this family just about wins the medal for most dysfunctional parents who actually still care about their kids. Still, as I began to read the story of the Walls siblings, their family adventures, and how they escape their family background, there was a tremendous sense of amazement for how two people so detached could still give their children exactly what they needed to ultimately survive. Nobody's childhood is perfect, but it will almost certainly look far better after reading this book. ( )
  TiffanyAK | May 8, 2015 |
In this memoir of her early life, Jeannette Walls describes a childhood spent moving from place to place with her brilliant, but troubled, father and her flighty artist mother. They often live in extreme poverty, barely eking out enough to eat and sometimes not even then.

Walls’s storytelling smoothly shifts from being a child who is devoted to her parents to a young adult who realizes that she has to get out if she wants to make something of her life. Her father sells their constant moving as a grand adventure and talks endlessly about inventions that will make them famous and the glass castle he will build them to live in. Her mother seems to think it’s romantic, that being constantly on the move is a sign of an artistic temperament. As Walls grows older, she starts to grow resentful of the living conditions they’re subjected to, her father’s increasing drunkenness, and her parents’ seemingly blasé attitude to their children’s well-being.

She still loves them though, even as she and her siblings plot to save some money, move away, and live their own lives. She perfectly captures that struggle between love for one’s parents and the necessity of breaking away. In one particularly poignant scene, her father allows her to go upstairs with a stranger, who gropes at her and attacks her. She tells her dad, sure that he will go and protect her and beat the man up, but her dad laughs it off – it is never explicitly said, but there is a moment when she realizes her father is all talk, no action.

That is not to say he is entirely a bad person. It would be very easy to paint both her parents as bad guys, but Walls resists; her father is still brilliant, still loving and funny, and her mother still genuinely believes in the importance of their family being together, even going so far as them both living homeless in New York to be close to Walls and her siblings.

There are times when there was an uncomfortable voyeuristic feel to it – a How the Other Half Lives sort of appalled, “They ate cat food?” as it portrays some of the realities of living in poverty that most people are comfortably unaware of – but overall, Walls keeps it from being preachy or a sob story. She is not asking for pity or a medal for making something out of herself, she is asking for understanding.

Overall, a moving book, one that is realistic – I realize some might think this is to be assumed for a memoir, but all memoirs are still stories at heart – and compassionate at the same time. ( )
  kittyjay | Apr 26, 2015 |
No fault to find with the story-telling, author is a fine writer... Small Spoiler Alert: this nonfiction story tells of parents who should have never had off-spring (they were self-centered and hands-off in the raising of their children to an extreme -- the children raised themselves) and three of four somewhat successful children growing up with barely shelter above their heads, irregular/undependable meals provided and accidental education. The world at large does not need this story told. Those who should read this won't change their behavior because they won't recognized themselves in the story. The rest of us recognize that there has always been and will always be neglectful parents, many children of whom will succeed independently because they have the internal wherewithall. The other children will fail for the lack of guidance and parental teachings and so the world will continue to revolve as it has always done. Find a different book... this story won't add to your life or mind or spirit, unless reading of depraved parenting is what you seek. ( )
1 vote olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
The memoir of Jeanette Walls who lived with her parents and brothers and sisters. THis talks about how they lived as nomads ad continued to survive.
  RachelHollingsworth | Feb 27, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 579 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:35 -0400)

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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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