The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Book description~ Jeannette Walls’s father always called her “Mountain Goat” and there’s perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents – Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls’s childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets.
Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls’ removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents’ knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them — despite their overwhelming self-absorption — resonates from cover to cover.
When you’re hungry, you reach for the pantry. When you’re tired, you crawl into your soft bed. When you feel dirty, you take a shower. When you’re thirsty, you open the fridge for refreshment. When you’re cold you reach for a blanket…well…not if your Jeannette, Lori, Brian, Maureen, Rose Mary or Rex Walls you don’t…
Never have I felt more humbled than when I closed the book on this unbelievable account of the Wall’s family struggles throughout the decades. Sure, we’ve all had our ups and downs and family struggles; I’ve definitely had more than my fair share. But after The Glass Castle, you too will completely rethink the simple pleasures and niceties your life has bestowed upon you and be truly in awe at the human ability to overcome.
The Glass Castle is written from Jeannette’s first person point of view and she so candidly shares her family’s past riddled with alcoholism, abandonment all colored as “liberalism” from her parent’s eyes. Some of the scenes are down right painful while others are astonishing, but I urge you to pick this up and read it; you won’t be able to put it down. I wanted to scream through the pages at Jeannette’s mother at times, shocked at how ignorant some people can truly be. I could relate to Jeannette on so many levels, especially her inner drive and ability to focus on what was ahead of her, rather than dwell in self-pity over what could have been. This book has been on my TBR for sometime now, after a friend and her fiancée attended Walls’ book signing event last year in Walls’ now nearby hometown of Culpeper, VA.
I’d forgotten about this book until it was chosen as this month’s discussion selection for book club. Although it’s pretty unfair to critique someone’s life story, I can certainly critique Walls’ writing style, which I thought was delightful and so optimistic despite the hardships Jeannette and her family faced. I can’t wait to pick up Walls’ other book, Half Broke Horses, about the life of her grandparents.
“Dad was lighting his cigarette. I waved, and he waved back. Then he shoved his hands in his pockets, the cigarette dangling from his mouth, and stood there, slightly stoop-shouldered and distracted looking. I wondered if he was remembering how he, too, had left Welch full of vinegar at age seventeen just as convinced as I was now that he’d never return. I wondered if he was hoping that his favorite girl would come back, or if he was hoping that, unlike him, she would make it out for good.”
Discussing the idea of how awesomely this memoir would translate to film, one of the book club babes and I came up with a few Hollywood celebs that we think would perfectly fit some of the main characters. Who do you think could best play the Walls’ family?
Billy Bob Thornton as Rex Walls
Juliette Lewis as Rose Mary
Abigail Breslan as the young Jeannette
Dakota Fanning as the older Maureen (think Cherie Curry from The Runaways)
Maybe Thora Burch for Lori although Lori is a bit of a ? for me…
Channing Tatum possibly as Brian??
4 down, 22 to go!