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.