The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls delivers an incredible true story of her childhood in the care of her nomadic, non-conforming parents. Rex and Rose Mary Walls are brilliant individuals and their four children inherit many of their good virtues. But her father is the victim of an abusive childhood and finds solace in alcohol. The mother has an artistic gift, but admits to being an “excitement addict”. She suffers from bouts of depression and shuns the responsibility of providing for her family. The author’s earliest memory is cooking hot dogs on the stove at the age of three.
The family bounces around the Southwest in the 1960’s. At one point Rex makes a sharp turn in their dilapidated car, the back door swings open, and Jeanette finds herself accidentally thrown from the back seat of the car. With dust and pebbles stuck on her face she waits for her parents to realize they have lost a passenger. The twenty minute wait is interminable for a toddler.
At the age of 10 the author’s family has settled in Rex’s West Virginia hometown. The uncouth hillbilly relatives make Rex look like the success story of the clan. Eventually while still in their teens with the support from siblings, the three oldest children move to New York City to escape their parents’ insanity and to start their own successful lives.
This book is touching for many reasons. Jeanette Walls overcame extreme odds to achieve her present day status as a contributor to MSNBC. But she always tries to present her parents with affection and generosity. She survives poverty, fires and near starvation to find her place in the world. Her parents instill in her an amazing ability to overcome adversity.
Additionally, the story is thought provoking about the plight of the “homeless”. Because of their mental state the parents frequently find themselves on the street or living out of their car. Even with their children established with successful careers, the parents still elect to live on the streets rather than accept assistance from their children.
The Glass Castle is a fast paced book that offers a new perspective on a rarely explored fringe of society.