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)
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.
Knowing that not only is it a true story but it is being read by the author makes it so moving.
A great story of the bonds of family.
You can hear the love in her voice, she is never condescending or angry. And a cute country accent to boot!
Since I read the book several years ago, I thought the audio version would be a nice revisit. The performance fell short.
Jeanette- she is a tenacious, bold survivor. She cared for her siblings when her parents could or would not.
Not audio, unless a different narration. The performance fell flat. The magic present in the voices of her characters is lost. I "heard" so much more passion, anger, frustration, pain, shame, pride, love and innocence on the pages of her books.
Open my eyes to poverty in my own backyard; be grateful for my parents and family, take nothing for granite.
Walls is one of our times best writers of non-fiction "fiction", memoirs, "real life stories". Enjoy her gift of words on paper (or kindle) to receive richest experience.
I was very mixed as to whether I wanted to continue reading this book because the story was unsettling and the neglect that Ms. Walls and her siblings endured was appalling. At some point I decided I would continue listening to find out how Jeannette Walls managed through such abhorrent conditions. She did a fantastic job of telling her story and at the end of the book I was glad I stuck with it. Jeannette Walls did a wonderful job letting us into her life and showing us that the human spirit can rise above and shine.
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