Regular price: $27.93

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
OR
In Cart

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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    6,108
  • 4 Stars
    2,075
  • 3 Stars
    569
  • 2 Stars
    135
  • 1 Stars
    102

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    5,306
  • 4 Stars
    1,686
  • 3 Stars
    602
  • 2 Stars
    151
  • 1 Stars
    114

Story

  • 4.6 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    5,584
  • 4 Stars
    1,597
  • 3 Stars
    482
  • 2 Stars
    122
  • 1 Stars
    87
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Dr.
  • Lake Oswego, OR, United States
  • 06-12-11

Thoughtful, touching, engaging.

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Not as good as I expected...

What would have made The Glass Castle better?

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.

7 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Melissa
  • Dayton, OH, United States
  • 10-09-10

Didn't hate it...

The story was interesting enough; although at times I found the discrepancies that were overlooked peculiar. The writing lacked substance and was a bit flat for my taste. There were time s when I found myself annoyed with the incessant “I said…she said…he said” It was a bit too much, I mean come on, really I think the reader gets the point. I can’t say I hated it but I think Jeannette Wall’s should focus on the writing and leave the narrating to others.

13 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Poorly written..what was the point?

What disappointed you about The Glass Castle?

This was supposedly some kind of memoir. It consisted basically of flat, undeveloped, serial tragic events in someone's life. Didnt seem to be much point except to tell about these events in a lackluster way. Only made it half-way through and had to give up on it.

Has The Glass Castle turned you off from other books in this genre?

no

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

An Unbelievable Story in the Author's Voice

What made the experience of listening to The Glass Castle the most enjoyable?

Hearing this crazy story and having no idea where things were going to go next.

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

The visit to the zoo.

What about Jeannette Walls???s performance did you like?

Hearing the story in her own voice made it believable. If an actor had read it one would have a difficult time believing it was true.

Any additional comments?

Given all that the Walls children endured, it is amazing to see the strength of their family.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 10-15-11

A challenging upbringing

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Take a pass on this one.

What would have made The Glass Castle better?

Professional Narrator

Would you ever listen to anything by Jeannette Walls again?

I did listen to Half Broke Horses, which I liked much better, but I probably would not listen to anything else without a very good recommendation. I really did NOT like this book, at all!

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

I think as the author she is too close to the story, and has only limited performance skills.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

It was a waste of time. I did not find it entertaining or enlightening, just depressing and dismal.

Any additional comments?

Ms. Walls life story certainly suggests she has done well from difficult beginnings, but honestly there was just too much of the irresponsible mother and father who simply could not be bothered to raise or care for their children once they'd gotten around to having them.

7 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Infuriatingly good!

Not my normal genre, so the story was not for me. However, I was engaged by Wall's story telling abilities. Just not for me.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Really Good

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would highly recomend, listened prior to watching the movie and recommend doing the same. The book is more detailed, better overall. The characters endure so much throughout their childhood it is shocking at times but written in a way that doesn't highlight only suffering.

  • Overall
  • Performance

couldn't finish

disliked the narrators voice. unable to keep engaged in story. disappointed, had high hopes for this book.