Showing posts with label Jeannette Walls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeannette Walls. Show all posts

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.









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Monday, August 21, 2017

Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses; A True-Life Novel
Welcome to the book review of Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls. The thing is, I haven't completed the book, so can I really consider this a review?  I'm not sure. What I am sure about, this is one of those stories that is painted so vividly that you don't want to put the book down. It is one of those stories that as soon as you begin, you want to start asking folks if they've read this book. And if they say no, you want to tell them to start. That's what this book review is about. To encourage you to sit down and meet Lily Casey Smith.


Why I Chose Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel 


I have a long list of books that are yet unread in my Kindle. There are so many books and so little free time. So why would I add yet another book to that list?  What would cause me to start a book that I hadn't even considered previously?

I was in the process of packing for my most recent camping trip and there was a commercial on the television about a soon-to-be-released movie titled The Glass Castle. The commercial went on describing the movie that is based on the best selling book by Jeannette Walls and so on and so forth.  So I stopped what I was doing an did a quick internet search to find out what all the hub-bub was about.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir is written by Jeannette Walls and has been "more than seven years on the New York Times Best Seller list". Some of my favorite books have never been, to my knowledge, on the New York Times best seller list. So that information does not guarantee that I'll purchase the book. I read the Amazon reviews and considered. Unfortunately, I really don't care for spending over $10 for a digital copy of a book so I did not click the "buy now" button.

However, I went on to look at the other books Ms. Walls had written. Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel is advertised as "Laura Ingalls for adults" and that appealed to me. I read the "look inside" excerpt and was hooked. 

This story is about Ms. Walls' grandmother's life. The life of Lily Casey Smith. Ms. Lily began in Texas. Helping to break horses and raise her siblings. Flash floods, broken bones, and tornadoes were not unexpected parts of her children. Her father, gimpy, with a speech impediment, and a quick temper depended on her to help on the ranch. Her mother, a delicate and proper woman who was prone to fainting spells. Likely due to the tightness of her corset.  As Lily became older (a whopping 15 years old), she left the nest by teaching in frontier towns over 500 miles away from home. She filled the teacher vacancies the war created at these small town schools. However, the war ended and the teachers returned. Ms. Lily was forced to return home. 

As I said, I'm only halfway through the book and after her teaching stint, I've accompanied Ms. Lily to Chicago, have witnessed the impact of the growing ownership of cars by the public, and have seen her struggle with her mother's constant warnings of becoming a spinster. However, I believe that particular disaster is about to be avoided. Honestly this time. And just as she seems to be falling in love with a decent man, I understand that the Great Depression is looming on the horizon. I am anxious to witness how Ms. Lily navigates this true disaster.

I am glad to be reading the story of Lily Casey Smith before considering reading the memoir of Ms. Walls' life. I am also very glad to be reading this before watching the movie. If you think you'd enjoy a not-so-sweet adult version of Little House on the Prairie, you ought to take a peek at Half-Broke Horses. Not that I'm speaking poorly of the Little House series. I was a huge fan. But where Nellie was the anomaly, it seems the Nellie-like characters are the norm in Ms. Lily's life. 


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The contributors on Review This! love to read. We enjoy a wide variety of genres. For the complete list of our book reviews click the site directory here.

The last book (series) I read that grabbed my attention and imagination like this was the Refined By Love series by Judith Miller. I could not put those books down! Rather than doze off after a chapter or two, I stayed awake, neglect housework, and devoured the three books in the series. For more details, see the review of The Brickmaker's Bride which is the first in that series.



I seem to currently be in the mood for stories of a certain time period in the earlier history of the United States. If you prefer more current memoirs and/or heartfelt stories involving dogs, check out Renaissance Woman's book review of Will's Red Coat. This is definitely one of those books on my to-read list, as soon as I come out of this historical mode. 






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