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 15 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.
©2005 Jeannette Walls (P)2010 Simon and Schuster Audio
"Jeannette Walls has carved a story with precision and grace out of one of the most chaotic, heartbreaking childhoods ever to be set down on the page. This deeply affecting memoir is a triumph in every possible way, and it does what all good books should: it affirms our faith in the human spirit." (Dani Shapiro, author of Family History)
"The Glass Castle is the saga of the restless, indomitable Walls family, led by a grand eccentric and his tempestuous artist wife. Jeannette Walls has survived poverty, fires, and near starvation to triumph. She has written this amazing tale with honesty and love." (Patricia Bosworth, author of Anything Your Little Heart Desires and Diane Arbus: A Biography)
"Just read the first pages of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and I defy you not to go on. It's funny and sad and quirky and loving. I was incredibly touched by it." (Dominick Dunne, author of The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper)
I had heard rave reviews about this book. Granted, the author overcame some big obstacles in life, but in general I found the story and the writing to be sophomoric. It read more like an oral recounting of a number of stories pieced together. Some were entertaining but on the whole, I found the book pointless and laborious.
Listen to about four audio books a months. Never without one.
I hated this book. I try to read a variety of genre of books. This one often pops up on "must read" lists. I knew it was a memoir written by the daughter of neglectful parents. I made it half way through and quit it. Finally two months later, I revisited it and finished it. The story is told in a cool, detached fashion and lacks any insight. These parents were abusive and narcissists. Sadly, probably mentally ill and the dad, alcoholic. They were not eccentric. I often "do" tough topics and abuse is one of them but I want to learn from the author. How did she survive these parents and how could she possibly have kept them in their lives? Tragic story. Horrible book.
The Glass Castle made me cringe, cry, and laugh out loud --- sometimes all in the same chapter! It is exactly what you want from a memoir. Real people, real experiences.
Jeannette was my favorite character. Her story is complicated, but the beauty of her life shines through. She never pities herself. The anger comes through sometimes, but mostly it's just acceptance and the desire and determination to make her life better.
My favorite scene was when Jeannette finally met the prostitute of Welch. Everything she had expected to feel about this woman went right out the window and the encounter delivered my favorite line of the book, "One thing about whoring, it put a chicken on the table."
If life circumstances had allowed, I would have listened to this book without ever turning it off until I had finished listening to every single chapter. I wanted to devour it.
I grew up in southern West Virginia. After living in a big city for over 16 years, I moved back to the state in 2009. I can say that Jeannette captured life in certain parts of WV very accurately. I wish her time in WV had been better for her and for her family. It's a fantastic state filled with wonderful people, but Jeannette's description of her life in Welch rings very true to me.
Jeannette's reading of her own work made this audiobook even more of a pleasure. Listening to the author describe events in her life made them come alive in a way that would be hard to capture by just reading words on a page. I feel like I made a friend in Jeannette. I will truly miss the sound of her voice.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, A hoper, a pray-er, a magic-bean buyer. If you're a pretender come sit by my fire
Sure, she had a hard life, but the way she made herself the martyr-hero in this story made me want to punch the narrator/protagonist as much as her dead-beat parents. The prose was not inventive or lively, the story barely kept my attention, and Jeannette's accent get more southern with each chapter. I cannot recommend this book to anyone.
Absolutely, to hear the story from the author herself was wonderful.
When the mother praises Jeannette, aged 3 for getting "back on the horse" and making hot dogs again after being hospitalized for being badly burned.
I was so sickened listening to this book... the terrible dismal conditions and their terrible preoccupied parents. It was just that... terribly sad.
I loved the story though I was often shaking my head at how someone could go through all of that and turn out normal...
The story was interesting and engaging but although Ms. Walls is an excellent writer, the narration was awful.
The performance was flat. It did get slightly better as the book progressed but it was not good. I've listened to hundreds of audio books and this was the worst narration ever. I wanted to stop listening and run to get the print version. This one is truly a better read in print.
In rates in the top 30 of the audible books I've listened to - which is over 300.
I liked the main character and her strengths. Not enough space to go into detail.
Favorite scene was when she, at 15 years of age, rode horse for several days, alone, to reach her destination.
My title says it all. You wouldn't expect a memoir of a VERY dysfunctional family to be so engaging - but it is. A very insightful story - but not told to yield insight - about growing up with a narcissistic, alcoholic father and a well meaning, but detached daydreamer/artist of a mother. That the author and her siblings should be so resilient says a lot about the human capacity to cope and survive, but also about how even dysfunctional parents can pass along life-sustaining qualities. Although I seldom think authors should read their own books, Walls does a passable job that does not distract from her story.
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