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 have not read the print book, however, I liked the audio edition very much.
It is somewhat comparable to Drinking: A love story, in it's discussion of the difficulty of dealing with addiction; or to Breaking NIght, in it's discussion of the difficulties of being a child of poverty. But it is it's own story, with discussion of aspects of race, cultural differences, and the impact of a steady diet of broken promises.
As with most story tellers, the author's use of description and character development helps you feel you are there where the story is unfolding.
I liked the narrator. I found their reading style easy to listen to, with good intonation and inflection.
Good book, I liked it very much
When I began listening to this memoir, I became disgusted and enraged; I almost stopped a couple of hours in, but I kept at it and I'm very glad I did. Like many other people who've commented on this book, I thought of the parents as selfish and the treatment of the children as child abuse. But you get a little further in and you start thinking mom is bipolar and dad is a genius whose brain got pickled in the womb. This doesn't justify their behavior; it simply helps to explain some of it. They both had a screw loose.
Some people did not like Walls' narration. I felt that she read it much the way she felt it as a child. Again, it took me a while to come to this realization, but I think this helped make it feel more true.
I found it amazing that Rex and Rose Mary found each other. The life they created was normal for them, maybe not so for you and me, but it was their life and unfortunately their kids had to go along with it. Even if they'd sold the land in TX, They would have found a way to burn through the $ with little benefit to the kids. I do think, though, that Lori, Jeannette, and Brian got more from their parents in some ways than many of us do in "normal" families. My dad never gave me a planet. Maureen, on the other hand, came along too late to reap the good stuff; the parents were burned out by then.
Just as Jeannette's sociology teacher thought she knew it all, so too,do some of the "normal" people of this world. It does really take all kinds. Not everyone follows the same set of rules. I really appreciate Walls giving us the opportunity to see her world from her viewpoint, from her normal.
I think either would have been good, but the audio edition allows me to listen while doing other things. If read I would not have been able to finish as quickly.
The writer's own view. Since she lived this life her inflections and emotion were evident.
The way it comes to live and you can see the places and experience unfold in front of you.
When she Jeannette falls out of the car and sits my the road waiting for her father and mother to come back to pick her up.
The true emotion behind the words from a first person prospective.
A look inside a dysfunctional life.
Jeannette....she was a tough little girl who knew she wanted better for her life and wasn't afraid to tell her parents how she felt about them.
It made me both laugh and cry. A great story about not living in the past or letting your chidhood ruin your future!
One of the more enjoyable audiobooks I've listened to, Jeannette Walls is a brilliant storyteller. I love when authors record their own books because the inflection and emphasis on the best parts is exactly where it needs to be.
This is one of those rare books that will make you laugh, cry, and positively terrify you all at the same time. It might be too cliché to say it restored my faith in humanity, but I certainly felt grateful for my own tame childhood and the bond I share with my siblings. There were so many memorable moments in the book, but a lot of them were slightly disturbing or worrisome. To actually name one of them would give too much away! I kept waiting for the shoe to drop--I had this feeling that something terrible was going to happen--and then, miraculously, it never did. Jeanette and her siblings come out on top, again and again. I appreciated that while she is critical of her parents and her upbringing, she also does a fantastic job of highlighting their talents and all of the little ways they made her feel loved as she grew up.
I definitely wanted to listen to straight through, but I don't have the time for that these days. I listened to it throughout the day while as I did housework. It was certainly a great way to pass the time. I ALMOST looked forward to doing the dishes.
Growing conviction that human beings can be very resilient kept me listening and in awe of those of us who rise above life circumstances.
I confess Jeanette is my favorite person in her memoir -- not because we are getting her slant on things, but because I grew fond of the little girl who could understand her intelligent parents' perspective even as she could see the consequences of their actions/inactions. I am not so sure that I in similar circumstances could have coped so marvelously.
Her love of her family is especially moving when you are hearing her speak about them. It makes her memoir even more believeable, more genuine coming straight from her heart to your ears!
I was moved by the ability of the young and growing children to take over and be the functional parents of their very dysfunctional parents. That they still seemingly loved them both and did not, on the most part, disown them.
Hard book to read at times as no one ever wants to see children live as they did.
The story is fascinating. It is easy to see why it's been a best seller, but I think it would have been better served by being read by someone else other than the author. Her halting, repetitive style, with every sentence sounding the same, is not very engaging. I almost stopped listening, but fortunately the story is very powerful. I have heard many other audiobooks that have been performed brilliantly. Regretfully, this is not one of them.
The scene where the father has Jeanette pet the Cheetah was very suspenseful. The characters are all very well written. You get the feeling you've met them all.
The performance is very monotonous. The sentences all sound the same, with the same inflection. It really emphasizes the choppy style of the writing. This is one case where I think someone else's performance of the writing would have been a better option.
Fantastic autobiography of the author - so hard to put down as she leads you through her childhood. It's so heartbreaking, but is not at all sentimental in the way it is told, which is so matter-of-fact, and respectful, and childlike in its respect for her parents, and her sense of fun and adventure. It brings out the complex relationships of the family - love and hate for the same person, as a child might experience it. Really, fabulously told.
There are so many unforgettable scenes that I keep thinking about - but the one where her father comes home drunk and ruins Lori's statue of Shakespeare - what she considers her chance to "get out" and get an art scholarship - and he is so flip in an effort to be "genuine."
Although the author is not sentimental, it is heart-wrenching to think of the hardships these children faced.
The book is read by the author, which makes it even better - to hear it the way she intended it to be. The ending gets a little (strangely) sentimental, but overall the story is well worth your time to listen to.
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