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The Glass Castle: A Memoir | [Jeannette Walls]

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

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. Rose Mary painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family; she called herself an "excitement addict."
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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (1599 )
5 star
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4.3 (1248 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Marcy Berthold, ND, United States 04-25-13
    Marcy Berthold, ND, United States 04-25-13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not living in your childhood"
    Where does The Glass Castle rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top Ten


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Jeannette Walls – was your favorite?

    Dad


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It made me both laugh and cry. A great story about not living in the past or letting your chidhood ruin your future!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erin APO, AP, United States 04-19-13
    Erin APO, AP, United States 04-19-13 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting and Unexpected, Loved It!"
    Where does The Glass Castle rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Glass Castle?

    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.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean Indio, CA, United States 04-03-13
    Jean Indio, CA, United States 04-03-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    455
    6
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    Story
    "What Are You Waiting For? READ THIS!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Glass Castle the most enjoyable?

    Growing conviction that human beings can be very resilient kept me listening and in awe of those of us who rise above life circumstances.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    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.


    What does Jeannette Walls bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon Lahaina, HI, United States 03-24-13
    Sharon Lahaina, HI, United States 03-24-13 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
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    Story
    "Very Enlightening"
    Where does The Glass Castle rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Excellent.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    Hard book to read at times as no one ever wants to see children live as they did.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne Maggio-Hucek Penngrove, CA USA 03-15-13
    Suzanne Maggio-Hucek Penngrove, CA USA 03-15-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating Story but not a great Listen"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Glass Castle?

    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.


    What didn’t you like about Jeannette Walls’s performance?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel DPO, AP, United States 03-11-13
    Rachel DPO, AP, United States 03-11-13 Member Since 2009
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    REVIEWS
    37
    6
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    Performance
    Story
    "Heartbreaking, Riveting"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    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."


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Although the author is not sentimental, it is heart-wrenching to think of the hardships these children faced.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Heather ATLANTA, GA, United States 03-04-13
    Heather ATLANTA, GA, United States 03-04-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Heartbreaking story, read so well by the author"
    What did you love best about The Glass Castle?

    Knowing that not only is it a true story but it is being read by the author makes it so moving.


    What did you like best about this story?

    A great story of the bonds of family.


    What about Jeannette Walls’s performance did you like?

    You can hear the love in her voice, she is never condescending or angry. And a cute country accent to boot!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sarahjean Midwest USA 01-13-13
    sarahjean Midwest USA 01-13-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
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    98
    9
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    FOLLOWING
    1
    4
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Loved reading the book"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Since I read the book several years ago, I thought the audio version would be a nice revisit. The performance fell short.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Jeanette- she is a tenacious, bold survivor. She cared for her siblings when her parents could or would not.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Jeannette Walls’s performances?

    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.


    Did The Glass Castle inspire you to do anything?

    Open my eyes to poverty in my own backyard; be grateful for my parents and family, take nothing for granite.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clarissa Clemens 12-24-12 Member Since 2012
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    29
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "Unsettling but Well Done"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reader 12-11-12
    Reader 12-11-12

    reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
    ratings
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    9
    8
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    0
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    "Beautiful and enchanting!"

    LOVED IT! The combination of a heart-wrenching story with miraculous writing makes this a winner. Did I mention that I LOVED IT?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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