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The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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The Glass Castle (edition 2005)

by Jeannette Walls

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13,008574175 (4.16)645
Member:maritimer
Title:The Glass Castle
Authors:Jeannette Walls
Info:Scribner (2005), Edition: First, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, 2013, 2013A
Rating:****
Tags:None

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

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English (567)  German (3)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (573)
Showing 1-5 of 567 (next | show all)
This book is so insanely beautiful and horrific all at once. It really is indescribable, but I love it. I love that she doesn't dwell on emotion itself, just describes the situations and allows you to feel it. ( )
1 vote KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
Shallow Anecdotes, not a Memoir

This is the story of 4 children who survived horrific abuse and neglect by their alcoholic father and out-to-lunch "artiste" mother, told by the second daughter. It's being marketed as a memoir, but if you're looking for another Angela's Ashes, or even Running with Scissors, this isn't it. The author appears to have learned nothing from her experience. She closes the book with her mother making happy toasts to the memory of the father, even as her younger sister (understandably) has taken off for California after being discharged from a mental hospital--after all, that sister had "never really applied herself."

There is no depth to this book--no mention of the mental anguish she might have felt when she escaped to New York and left her younger brother and sister in that environment, no mention of seeking help (Al-Anon, support groups, therapy, *something*) once she was in a position to make that happen, etc. This is a classic story of an alcoholic family, and the people play their roles admirably (The Hero, The Lost Child, The Scapegoat, etc). Too bad the author doesn't realize it. As I said, this isn't a memoir; it's a series of shallow, pseudofunny anecdotes. Not recommended. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
THis is the memoir of a successful journalist who grew up virtually homeless with an alcoholic father and mother who must have some mental health issues. Though the author never says that, the behavior of her mother doesn’t lead to many other conclusions. If she’s not mentally ill, there is absolutely no excuse for her neglect of her children. Anyway, the 4 children in this family end up doing well for themselves, leaving home as soon as possible and fleeing to New York City where they get jobs and create lives for themselves. Their parents follow their children their and end up living homeless on the streets of New York.

Besides the fact that the behavior of the parents in this book made me really mad, I really didn’t think the writing was that good. The author begins this book with her earliest memories (from around age 3) and a few chapters in I wondered if she was writing to sound like a child. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t change as she aged in the book, so I guess not! ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 24, 2014 |
After reading Walls' Half-Broke Horses, I'm rereading The Glass Castle. I rarely reread books (just too many to read!), but I'm enjoying this one even more the second time around. ( )
  ArleenWilliams | Jul 22, 2014 |
Memoirs are tricky in that they require an author to take an honest look at their life, find a coherent story, and tell it in a way that is touching but not overly self-indulgent. Walls achieves this wonderful balance in The Glass Castle.

The writing is excellent. Walls is a journalist by trade, so I would hope that she would be able to tell a decent story, and she can. She sucks you into the world of the underclass and makes you feel sympathetic and at times, incredibly angry. She’s very good at painting a picture with words.

One of the aspects of the book that really makes this work is that Walls doesn’t analyze her life; she lets us do that. She never shares a story and then say what the point of the experience was. She tells her story and lets it speak for itself, which I found incredibly refreshing. It allows readers to look at this book from all different viewpoints. It also assumes some level of intelligence on the part of the reader. At the very beginning of the book, Walls shares a conversation between herself and her mom, in which she ask her mom what she should tell people about her parents. Her mom’s response? “Just tell the truth. That’s simple enough.” And that’s exactly what Walls does. She tells the truth, though it’s not quite as simple as her mom makes it out to be.

Walls never delves into self-pity or whining, a feat I find remarkable considering some of the tales from her childhood she tells. Things like living in a house without electricity, and indoor plumbing with holes in the floor would definitely draw several complaints out of me. As it is, it makes the book stronger.


I really appreciate that this story was written chronologically. It’s not a requirement for memoirs, not being biographies, but I find memoirs often work better when the stories are linear.


Final Impression: This is a solid memoir that opens the doorway for conversations, weaves an interesting tale, and does it tactfully(remarkably so). 4/5 stars.

Review first posted on my blog Book.Blog.Bake. ( )
  Stormydawnc | Jun 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 567 (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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Epigraph
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"
Dedication
To John, for convincing me that everyone who is interesting has a past
First words
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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:35 -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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