Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book Review: The Glass Castle

“When dad wasn't telling us about all the amazing things he had already done, he was telling us about the wondrous things he was going to do. Like build the Glass Castle. . . All we had to do was find gold, Dad said, and we were on the verge of that. Once he finished the Prospector and we struck it rich, he'd start work on our Glass Castle." Pg 25

I just finished reading the memoir The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I decided this book would be a good "cabin book" that my aunts would enjoy passing out to the cousins and telling them if they would read it, they would appreciate their charmed lives a little more. At times I didn't know if I was enjoying it or just trying to make it through the book. All I know is that this is a true Cinderella story.

The story describes the childhood of Jeanette Walls. It begins as she is leaving her Park Avenue apartment in a town car. As she drives to a lavish party she passes a homeless woman in the street and immediately realizes to her horror that it is her mother. Ashamed, she hides and rushes back home. Then unfolds the story of her childhood as her family wanders from city to city each time her father promises that it is only a matter of time before they strike it rich and together they will build the Glass Castle and live in the lap of luxury.

As the story progresses Jeanette sees how the world views her and her family, her rose-colored glasses come off. After years of roaming around the desert Southwest, the family eventually moves to their father's family home in Welch, West Virginia.

She suffers sexual abuse from her childhood neighbor (she reacts by trying to shoot him at the age of 8) her uncle (her mother reacts feeling sorry for the uncle and says that molestation is a crime of perception) and her brother is the target of their grandmothers sexual abuse.

She adores her alcoholic father but recognizes that he is no good for the family. At 12 years old she urges her mother to leave him so that they can get welfare and be able to eat (at one point they are eating a stick of butter mixed with sugar). The New York Times review says that in the fairy tales there is often a loving parent and a sadistic evil parent but in this book the father and mother each take turns playing dual rolls.

It is a profound book. One that will have you laughing and rolling your eyes in one moment and cringing or crying the next.

It has a happy ending obviously. Jeanette and each of her siblings gradually escape to New York. The children are brilliant and self reliant, taking care of each other and each succeeding in their own capacity.

I like that the book was written in a matter of fact tone. Walls never seems like she is saying "woe is me" and seems to still love her parents in spite of their gross flaws.

I recommend this book to anyone who thinks they "had it rough" growing up, or anyone who needs to have a humbling experience.

1 comment:

Margie said...

Do you think I would like this book? It started out sounding very interesting, but then I wondered if it was the type of book that I would feel like I needed to take a shower after I finished reading about abuse.

I am glad you are enjoying some reading time!