Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Glass Castle: A Memoir - Book Review

The Glass Castle:  A Memoir - Book Review
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Some things just speak for themselves.  That Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle, has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for seven years is one of those things.  Obviously, I am not the only reader who has found this book to be extraordinary.

The Glass Castle, in short and yet potent vignettes, reveals what has to be the most bizarre childhood of all time.  Born to an artist and a dreamer, Jeannette and her three siblings find themselves living the barest of subsistence lifestyles.  A good day is one on which they are feasting on green grapes and stardust.

On the move constantly, their lives are an alchemy of famine, fire, fleeing (doing the skedaddle), fairytales, and far-off fortune.  One day, their father promises, just as soon as he perfects his invention, The Prospector, and finds gold, he is going to build them a glass castle in the desert.  While Rex chases his elusive dreams, and their mother, Rose Mary, loses herself in her art, the children are left to fend for themselves.

What is it that makes this collection of stories so compelling?  I asked myself this question over and over again as I began to draft this review.  I mean, there are plenty of memoirs about dysfunctional families out there.  What would make any of us want to immerse ourselves in another family's dysfunction?  Don't we have enough of our own?

One reviewer surmised that it could be the same human nature that makes people slow down and gawk at a wreck that draws one into this memoir.  Perhaps we can't help but stare at the scene of an accident.

Here's what I think.  It is the fending the children did, and the odd ties that bind a family together, that make for compelling reading.  I just had to stay by the side of Jeannette, Lori, Brian, and Maureen as they figured out how to survive each disaster.  I just had to know how they moved beyond the kind of upbringing that would scar most children for life.

This is the kind of book that puts things in perspective for anyone who previously thought he or she had a tough childhood.  It is also a memoir that reminds us of the amazing resilience of children.  Thank heavens for that.  I have a favorite quotation from the book that pretty much sums up the beauty of this memoir:
One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree.  I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house.  I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight.  Mom frowned at me.  'You'd be destroying what makes it special,' she said.  'It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty.'
May you be reminded, in a healing way, of what has made you beautiful as you enter into this walk on the painful side of childhood.  Here's to coming out on the other side.









Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

13 comments:

  1. That Joshua tree quote and your words of review make this a very compelling book to read, Diana. I find it amazing that there is a resilience to children that allows them to survive a childhood of indifference or worse. I have now put The Glass Castle on my reading list.

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    1. Thanks, Elf. This is definitely a "must-read" book.

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  2. I couldn't help but think as I was reading the review that we may be drawn to the story because it is based on a real life, a real family. Somehow, reading about how far out some situations are, makes us all feel like whatever we experienced was not so bad after all. Knowing the writer is a success in her adult life also gives us the reassurance that it "ends" well for her. It does sound like a book we would all enjoy reading. Thanks for the awesome review and recommendation! I'm always looking for the next great book to read.

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    1. I just had to come back and tell you that when I clicked to purchase the book, Amazon noted that I had previously bought the book. I knew I hadn't read it, so I wondered how could that be, where was the book. I checked the original order and found it was one purchased for my son during his college years. Apparently, it was one of his required reads for one of his classes. That is not surprising considering his major, but clearly one of his professors found the book an excellent example for their use as well.

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    2. I can totally relate to your comments. Though I felt so incredibly sad for what the Walls children endured, I also felt a sense of relief regarding those episodes of my early life that had previously seemed so awful. It provided me with a sense of normality that I had not perceived in the past. I would love to hear your son's take on this book given that he obviously had a childhood so unlike that of Jeannette and her siblings.

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  3. I can't wait to listen to this book! Jeanette Walls has a couple of other books too that I downloaded from the Library for the Blind. It makes me happy when there are books at this Library for me that I can listen to! The best books I love are about true life experiences! Thanks for the Review!

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    1. I also plan to read Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls. So happy that you have such a tremendous resource that enables you to continue to enjoy books. I would be lost without the capacity to read or have books in my life. Let me know what you think after you listen to The Glass Castle. Thanks!

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  4. Thank you for your review. I read Half Broke horses and enjoyed it very much. I was considering reading this next... but I had a little bit of that feeling of having had my fill with dysfunctional family stories. But if you enjoyed it, i'm sure I will too.

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    1. You will know when the time is right to read this.

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  5. Thank you for an excellent review. It sounds like a book that's right up my alley, but I don't want to download any more books until I catch up a bit with what's already loaded onto my Kindle. I don't have much reading time these days, except online.

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    1. I hear you. I'm pretty sure I'll never get caught up on all the books spooled on my Kindle. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. What a beautiful review. Honestly you have me wanting to read this one. I was just thinking about the resilience of children today (relating to a few people I know in my life) and how some can, as you said, come out the other side, and a few never quite make it. Sad when they don't, so sad. For the ones who do, it's completely inspiring.

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    1. One of the siblings in the book, Maureen, struggled more than the others (she is the youngest). Hard to know what made the difference. Perhaps it is because the three older siblings left home sooner. This book is well worth reading. I hope you get the chance to check it out. Thanks for your visit and comments. Always great to connect.

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