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 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...
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
There are lots of memoirs that grimly explore life in a dysfunctional family, to the point where an alcoholic dad, a reality-avoiding mom, and the misery they inflict on their children are almost cliches. However, Jeanette Walls??? story differs from the norm in that she strives for an attitude of forgiveness towards her free-spirited, troubled parents and a dispassionate acceptance of her own experience.
To be sure, Rex and Rose Mary Walls are not going to win any parent-of-the-month awards, and forgiving isn't excusing. Rex has a drinking problem and trouble holding a steady job, while Rose Mary cares more about her painting than putting food on the table and seems to suffer from a manic-depressive disorder. As they move around the country, perpetually broke and often living out of a car, they barely manage to keep their children sheltered and clothed, and cheerfully allow them to face troubles and dangers on their own. A few incidents are downright shameful, such as Rex's appalling misuse of his daughter in a pool hustle. Yet, neither, at least as Walls describes them, is an outright *bad* person. Rex is a bright man full of grand ideas, whose love of learning and independent streak shapes his children???s sense of pride in themselves, even when his irresponsible behavior denies them a very secure life. And Rose Mary, though unstable, shows bursts of optimism and a passion for adventure. The contradictions in these two people are fascinating, funny, and heartbreaking, sometimes all at once.
The Glass Castle also offers an interesting, somewhat conflicted perspective on poverty. The Walls children, while deprived on many levels, aren???t necessarily as unhappy or held-down in their lives as one might expect. In many respects, the young Jeanette grows up stronger and more self-assured than her peers (though, to be fair, her less-mentioned younger sister runs away as a teen and has some serious problems). Which is not to say that Walls dismisses the damaging aspects of being poor -- she certainly doesn???t -- but her memoir raises a few questions about conventional attitudes towards poverty, parenthood, and choice, and the need for a more nuanced understanding.
All in all, an enjoyable read, though the story becomes thinner then comes to a halt once Jeanette Walls herself reaches adulthood. I can't help but wonder how much time she might have spent in therapy before writing this book.
On a side note, some reviewers have accused Walls of being dishonest in her detailed recall of herself as a three year old. I disagree. While her actual memories of that age must have been limited, I would imagine that she based her account on what she had been told and added plausible details.
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.
I am an avid "reader"- I prefer to listen to books rather than read them due to the added dimension added by the narrator.
It is hard to believe that people lead lives such as the one Walls narrates in this book. That a person can have an upbringing such as the one she had and turn out capable and well-adjusted is nothing short of a miracle. I loved that Jeanette developed strength from adversity and was inspired by her.
I loved it and being only 12 it showed me be ever grateful and never feel bad for your self that gets you no where. strive for the best and when all else fails and try again.I can totally relate to the text having family issues of my own. And overall it made you feel a part of what was going on feel the emotion and give you a whole new look on life. So I'm only 12 but I think this is one of the best books I will ever read!!😃
This is an amazing autobiography!
It seems hard to believe the kind of lifestyle portrayed and that the author and most of her siblings were able to rise up from the depths of despair.
Narration done by someone else. Her voice was so monotonous and made a not so dramatic story even more boring and unbearable to listen to.
Monotonous reading made me not even finish the book
Maybe if the narration was done by a professional it could have made the story more interesting because I am sure it's a great story.
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