Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Read for book club (9/2010) at Crystal Lake Public Library. This book is the memoir of writer and journalist Jeannette Walls. It is an honest but sentimental look at her life growing up in a poor and dysfunctional family that lived at first out west in Arizona and then moved to rural West Virginia. Eventually she strikes out on her own and moves to NYC in hopes of a better life.

At first you kind of want to shake her and ask her why she was so loving and kind to her parents! Her father was a drunk and a dreamer who came up with nutty ideas and rarely accomplished a thing. Her mother was an artist who, in her own mind, sacrificed life and fun for her children. In reality he was just a drunk who made things up and she was a lazy spoiled brat who acted like she was 12 years old and had no responsibilities. They were appalling and should be ashamed of themselves! They weren't creative, they were just drunk and pathetic. For example, the idea where the memoir gets its name, her father tells them he is going to strike it rich and build them a dream home. They decide to proceed and start excavating the ground behind their shabby home, only to end up having it sullied by pitching the trash into it because they don't pay any of their bills. The mother finds it a waste of time to take care of anything domestic (like say feed her children) because her time could and should be better spent painting.

I was thrilled when Jeannette finally got the heck out of there and went to NYC, and was devastated when her useless and crazy parents showed up. They don't however sponge of her but rather choose to be homeless and squat in abandoned buildings and fight for their rights to do so. I cannot believe how gracious she was about such awful people who should have had their children taken away permanently and placed into protective services (an attempt was made but didn't stick). She lovingly recalls how he would teach them things (he was educated and a smart man) and how her mother was a free spirit. Personally, if these were my parents, I would have spent every page bashing them for their selfishness and despicable behavior.

It was a great read and one that spurred forth some interesting discussions in our group! I would recommend this to those that like memoirs and to those who want to appreciate parents who actually cared about them, even if they weren't perfect and dysfunctional, because they will seem like saints after you read about these two!

And so it goes...
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