Book Review 4 – The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

First, a powerful quote:

“Things usually work out in the end.”

“What if they don’t?”

“That just means you haven’t come to the end yet.”

It’s amazing how a family that was so dysfunctional can still warm your heart. The Walls family, as cataloged in Jeanette Walls’s groundbreaking memoir, The Glass Castle, did all that and more. Right from the very beginning, I was astounded at the kind of family that the author herself grew up in – at some parts throughout the novel I had to remind myself that it was actually a memoir and not fiction.

Jeanette’s father, when he was sober, possessed innumerable knowledge about physics, the cosmos, and how to live life – but when he was drunk, he nearly shattered his family’s hearts into pieces. Her mother didn’t see the value in caring for children, and encouraged them to fend for themselves (I was thinking – why would she even have kids?). Jeanette recounts her first memory when she burned herself while she was cooking a hot dog – when she was THREE YEARS OLD. Yes, that’s right. And after she got better (and her dad pulled her out of the hospital), her mother  encouraged her to  continue cooking, saying something like (this is not a direct quote) “you need to face your fears.”

From the beginning, I knew this book was going to make me experience a roller coaster of emotions, but I was ready.

The Walls family was always running from something – Jeanette and her siblings Brian, Maurine and Lori, don’t even recall the number of houses they have lived in. When Jeanette was younger, they moved between desert towns in Arizona and California, but when she got older, her family ran out of money and resorted to living in the dreary town of Welch, WV where her grandmother lived. The only beacon of hope was their father’s promise to build a Glass Castle, an engineering feat with high glass ceilings and stunning architecture. This never happened, of course, and one by one, all of his children lost faith in him – except Jeanette.

As the Walls siblings learn to stick together and face challenges such as not having enough to eat, they eventually make their way to New York City to pursue their own dreams, leaving their parents behind in the dust. When their parents decide to follow their children to the city, they become homeless – a heartbreaking moment for the children, but there is nothing they can do about it.

Even in the midst of it all, the family still stuck together.

Contrary to its premise, this book was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone who has experienced or is experiencing love of some kind. I don’t normally read memoirs as I often find them dull and simply a recount of a person’s life, but this memoir was much more than that, and it touched me in a way I can’t fully express.

This book will make you laugh and cry out in disbelief, and that is why it is so amazing.