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The Glass Castle: A Memoir

by Jeannette Walls

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
17,054724194 (4.15)737
Jeannette Walls tells the story about her childhood. She talks about living like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Retreating to the dismal West Virginia mining town--and the family-- her father, 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.… (more)
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» See also 737 mentions

English (711)  German (3)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Piratical (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (720)
Showing 1-5 of 711 (next | show all)
Still fantastic. Equal parts adventurous, dreary, dreamy and frightening. ( )
  Chyvalrys | Aug 5, 2020 |
Such a great read. Sad, funny, riveting, antagonising, annoying, incredible, wonderful! ( )
  Iira | Jul 27, 2020 |
This is quite a thought provoking memoir. I am amazed at the resilience of the Walls children. They made lives for themselves in spite of everything. ( )
  Martha662 | Jun 27, 2020 |
Even though I knew that the author eventually grew up to write this book and live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I still felt so stressed out reading about her plans to escape. She does such a great job of describing her home life in a way that shows her growing awareness of how difficult and unusual it was. I also enjoyed the snarky dialogue from her sister Lori and even her mom, as deeply unlikeable as she was. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
Life writing is not exactly my favorite genre, but this book was selected by my book club and so I dutifully read it. Two things surprised me about it: firstly, it was an incredibly fast read (I sped through the first hundred pages while juggling a million other things), and secondly, it was really well-written. The reason I avoid this genre is that most people's life stories are written with an eye to provoking our emotions in the basest possible way. They manipulate us into feeling angry, or sympathetic, or inspired, but whatever the intended output, I almost always feel as though I'm being conned into feelings that are manufactured rather than natural.

The great strength of Walls's account, by contrast, is that she shows remarkable restraint in telling this story without any of those emotional manipulations. Indeed, she goes out of her way to present the past through the eyes of her younger self, justifying the behavior of her parents in the same manner as she had done during the original experience. There can be no doubt that the Walls parents were abusive and neglectful, shifting the family from town to town in a spiral of increasing poverty and desperation. Juxtaposed to this, however, is the sense that they were also geniuses in their own way: their father Rex Walls repeatedly shows his skills in science, mathematics, and mechanics, while their mother Rose Mary is a seemingly talented but out-of-touch artist. Jeanette Walls does a remarkable job of showing these two starkly contrasting characters and how circumstances slowly swallow up their good qualities.

For most people, this book will hit all the right notes, but I wanted a little bit more in terms of pushing the limits of the genre. There are moments, for instance, where Walls wants to blur the line between literature and biography, such as the scene where her young self wants to replant a Joshua tree so that it will flourish:

"One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. 'You'd be destroying what makes it special,' she said. 'It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty.'"

In moments like these, I started to wish that Walls would push this strategy further by playing with her narrative voice a little, undermining its authority to some extent rather than building so insistently into the person she would become as an adult. There was no need to push such experimentation as far as, say, Chuck Barris's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography, but it is the nature of subjective writing to account for the teller's inherent biases and the unreliability of memory and I would have liked to see some acknowledgment of that fact.

Overall, however, I think this is a very well-written and interesting life story that mostly deserves the glowing accolades it has garnered so far. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 711 (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.

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeannette Wallsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gibson, JuliaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 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.
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