The Glass Castle

Sunday, August 10th, 2008 • 4 Comments on The Glass Castle

image  Last night, despite being exhausted, I stayed up until 1 AM reading Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.  It was recommended to me at least a year ago, but I put off reading it because of the topic—a dysfunctional family.  When you come from one, you find reading about someone else’s less than entertaining.  Finally, after running across the book on a couple of occasions recently, I decided I needed to read it.  I read about a third of it on Friday and finished it last night.

Walls’ family dysfunction is a bit more glamorous than most.  Sure, there are the usual hallmarks of a troubled family—alcoholism, poverty and what surely must have been mental illness—but there were also the adventures that took them across the country.  Walls writes in a straightforward way without pointing fingers.  The book is dedicated to her family, including her parents.

I found myself hating her mother and father.  How dare they?  I kept asking myself.  How dare they risk their children’s lives, health and safety for their own whims?  How dare they be so irresponsible with money?  But Walls writes of her parents with love and there is forgiveness in her voice.  I suppose I can understand that, to a point.  She has made a very successful life for herself and surely the strength she gained from surviving a childhood spent in abject poverty living with parents who were unbalanced (though she would likely call them free spirits) is partially responsible for the person she has become.  Still, I mourn the loss of her childhood and that of her siblings, who suffered along with her with there was no need to suffer at all.  I am not forgiving.

Posted by Kristina in Books and Reading
  • Eden says:

    Ooh I just finished this recently as well. It was so “this is how it was” without judgment that I felt I could really make my own decisions about the “characters” (and I came to the same conclusion you did about the parents). When I read about the land in Texas near the end? I was so angry, I had to put the book down and kind of walk around for a while to blow off steam. I wonder though if she’s really “forgiven” them. Do you think she felt/feels there was something to forgive?

    Oh and since I finished it, I’ve read reader views here & there online and a lot of people seem to have trouble believing the story. I believe it b/c I’ve experienced aspects of it. I also read a review from a man who claims to be a friend of her brother’s and he said that by the book’s release, he’d heard the same stories from the brother so many times taht when he read the book, he just nodded along.

  • Kristina says:

    Eden—Most of the book felt real to me.  I kind of raised my eyebrows over the part where they were having a “shoot out” with the kid—turning over the spool tables to hide behind, etc.  But the rest of it—being taken out to the middle of the spring to learn to swim (or drown trying), for instance—rang true. 

    Also, since everyone but the father is still alive, I imagine if there were any exaggerations, one of the other siblings would have come forward.  I do wonder about her sister Maureen and if there wasn’t more to her story toward the end than “she went to CA and had some issues with men.”  Seemed rather abrupt, but maybe she doesn’t know much.

  • Eden says:

    It seemed like Maureen was always kind of separate from the others. I’m not surprised things went the way they did for her. I bet you’re right that Jeanette just doesn’t know. Isn’t there a Sedaris sibling who’s also kind of apart from the others?

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