The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle

I was hooked after reading the first couple of pages of The Glass Castle. It is the memoir of Jeannette Walls, a well-known journalist and writer. It has been a long time since I have read a memoir and can’t remember reading one that I enjoyed as much as this one.

Jeanette Walls does a wonderful job narrating her childhood memories in such a way that she is able to transmit the development of her understanding as she matures and becomes aware of just how unconventional her family life had been. She and her family lived as nomads moving from town to town along the Southwest region of the U.S. until they finally settled in Welch, West Virginia.

As a young child, she viewed everything her family did as one big adventure; always on the run from the bad guys. Slowly she started to realize how impoverished and destitute her family situation really was as well as how eccentric her parents were. It is clear that her parents loved them but were reluctant to embrace their roles and responsibilities. Her father suffered from alcoholism and her mother appears to suffer from emotional/mental issues although she is described as a free spirit who did not believe in parenting. It is not until she and her siblings decide to leave their parents and move to New York that they are able to have some semblance of normalcy. As a reader, you will cheer for their success as they save up to move each other to New York.

However, through it all I admire the love and unity that the Walls family had despite all their tribulations. Jeannette is able to convey the love and admiration that she felt for parents as a young child particularly for her dad. As an adult the love that she has for her parents is still strong even though she is aware of everything that they put them through. Her parents eventually follow them to New York and the family is once again somewhat together but living in their own worlds. I loved that she is honest about her disappointment in them but still loves them.

I think that the full enjoyment of the book was marred by the knowledge that children live through such hardships. I cannot understand how such parents can exist. I was appalled that a parent could down play the molestation, starvation, or stability of their children. I understand that sometimes people need to learn from their experiences but children do need some guidance. However, this memoir also shows just how resilient children can be and how love can make it possible for them to overlook the shortcomings of their heroes, in this case her dad.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. This book will make you laugh, cry, shudder, reflect, and maybe even appreciate your parents a little more.


Review: The Pillars of the Earth

Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettAbout a week ago, I finally finished reading The Pillars of the Earth. My initial intention was to review each part as I got through it but soon after I realized that it wasn’t such a good idea. Once the story picked up, I could not put it down and regretted not being able to take the book around with me. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Don’t be discouraged by the size.

The Pillars of the Earth is an incredible story full of intrigue, romance, history, and architecture. The novel is set in the middle of the 12th century and centered around the building of Kingsbridge’s cathedral. It follows the lives of several characters, particularly those of Prior Philip, Tom Builder, Ellen, Aliena, Jack, Waleran Bigod, and William Hamleigh. The stories of the characters are intermingled as their lives are affected in one way or another by the construction of the cathedral. Most of the characters were driven by ambition, pride, love, and/or promises.

Among the things that I enjoyed about this book was that most of the female characters were not damsels in distress. Although they were victims of injustice and tyranny they were also survivors. The women of the story were clever and were not only able to recover but also succeed. I am not sure how historically accurate their success is for the 12th century. On the other hand, most of the men in the story seemed dependent on women helping them out or telling them what to do, particularly Richard. Richard’s character was actually rather annoying.

My favorite characters were Prior Philip, Ellen, Aliena, and Jack. Ellen seemed to belong to another time period. Her independence, boldness, bluntness, and sense of justice seemed at times slightly out-of-place. Both, Prior Philip and Jack, shared an innocence about the world that was endearing but were quick to figure things out.

I decided to read The Pillars of the Earth after watching the Starz TV adaptation. I have to say that I liked the ending of the Starz TV adaptation a little better. But the ending of the book was satisfying.