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The Glass Castle [Paperback]

Jeannette Walls
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 17 2006
The first book by the beloved author of the new novel The Silver Star, the extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, "nothing short of spectacular" (Entertainment Weekly) memoir from one of the world’s most gifted storytellers that has been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than six years.

The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.

The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Freelance writer Walls doesn't pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Walls, who spent years trying to hide her childhood experiences, allows the story to spill out in this remarkable recollection of growing up. From her current perspective as a contributor to MSNBC online, she remembers the poverty, hunger, jokes, and bullying she and her siblings endured, and she looks back at her parents: her flighty, self-indulgent mother, a Pollyanna unwilling to assume the responsibilities of parenting, and her father, troubled, brilliant Rex, whose ability to turn his family's downward-spiraling circumstances into adventures allowed his children to excuse his imperfections until they grew old enough to understand what he had done to them--and to himself. His grand plans to build a home for the family never evolved: the hole for the foundation of the "The Glass Castle," as the dream house was called, became the family garbage dump, and, of course, a metaphor for Rex Walls' life. Shocking, sad, and occasionally bitter, this gracefully written account speaks candidly, yet with surprising affection, about parents and about the strength of family ties--for both good and ill. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book, Five stars :) Jan. 22 2007
By Laura
Format:Paperback
I started to read this book, and I just couldn't put it down. Jeannette Walls is one of those rare storytellers where you feel as if you are right there experiencing everything with her. It is an enthralling read, and the worst thing about it is how it draws you in so much that you want to do little else but sit there until you reach the very last page. I highly reccomend this novel!
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A top-notch memoir Aug. 6 2007
Format:Paperback
I have always enjoyed memoirs and have read several that were quite memorable, but "The Glass Castle" tops them all. I started the book in the afternoon and had it finished within a few hours because I simply could not put it down for any length of time. Besides having led an extraordinary life, Jeannette Walls has an impeccable way with words. She evoked frustration, shock, joy, and anger in me through recounting the often bizarre circumstances of her past, but she never evokes or encourages pity at any time throughout the book. I felt satisfied when I came to the end of "The Glass Castle", which doesn't happen very often and is a real treat. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, regardless of whether or not you enjoy memoirs.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People who live in certain houses . .. July 11 2007
By P.C.
Format:Paperback
Of the three incredibly entertaining and uplifting reads I've recently come across, THE GLASS CASTLE was by far the best. Second place goes to MIDDLESEX by Eugenides and third to BARK OF THE DOGWOOD. I enjoyed reading in GLASS CASTLE about the child's father, as a good man. He bought new bicycles for his children and took them to the zoo. He also developed a love of learning in his children. Wells writes very vividly about what it felt like sleeping in cardboard boxes, looking though trash cans and dumpsters for food and eating nothing but popcorn for many days. She also lived in a house with no electricity or indoor plumbing. She developed a sense of resourcefulness of being so poor. She made her own set of braces to straighten out of coat hangers and rubber bands. She also took a job at the age of 13 at a jewerly store to help make ends meet. Wells discovers a love of journalism in high school which became one of the turning points in her life. Her love of writing led to a career as a journalist in New York City. Jeannette Walls has worked hard to achieve the life she now has. The Glass Castle is a touching, inspirational, entertaining memoir of a courageous successful woman, but try it for yourself! Also highly recommended: MIDDLESEX by Eugenides and WHITE OLEANDER.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A plot so crazy you'd think it wasn't real! Aug. 26 2007
By Reader
Format:Paperback
This book will keep you suprised over and over again. Just when you think you've read all the crazy things Jeanette Walls throws in some more! A good little book that is great to remind oneself about what is and isn't important in one's life. Will get you thinkin'!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EVERYONE INTERESTING HAS A PAST... Nov. 29 2008
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is a beautifully rendered, poignant account of a totally dysfunctional family. It is little wonder that this book won numerous awards and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. I simply could not put this book down, as the author had me transfixed with her story of growing up in such an unusual family.

Born to highly intelligent, creative parents who marched to the beat of a different drum, the author and her siblings had a difficult childhood. With a dreamer of a father who battled the bottle and a mother who was somewhat irresponsible and probably mentally ill, family life was a study in contrasts with an emphasis on independence, as well as artistic and intellectual pursuits, while spurning creature comforts, stability, and the much longed for three hots and a cot. This free wheeling philosophy, espoused by the author's parents, subjected their children to hunger, homelessness, and a nomadic existence. Yet, the children were resilient and thrived, even as their parents went on a downward spiral.

The author's story is positively riveting. It is a story of survival and eventual prosperity within mainstream society. It is a story about keeping one's head, when all around one others are losing theirs. The author's journey is certainly an amazing one, and I for one am delighted that she chose to share it with others. Those who enjoy reading memoirs and autobiographies will, undoubtedly, very much enjoy this one and be fascinated and moved by the author's singular, well-told story. Bravo!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IT WAS SOMETHING ELSE!!! WELL TOLD!!!, June 27 2006
Format:Hardcover
We were always doing the skedaddle usually in the middle of the night. Dad was so sure a posse of Federal investigators was on our trail that he smoked his unfiltered cigarette from the wrong end. That way, he explained, he burned up the brand name, so that the people who were tracking them down would find unidentifiable butts,instead of Pall Malls which could be traced to him."

Jeanette Walls has written a most touching memorial of her life as a youngster. As a young girl along with her three siblings, Lori, Brain and Maureen live out a nomadic existence with their parents in Arizona and West Virginia. We see a lot on how the poor existed and still enjoyed some semblance of happiness, because of the deep love that held them together through thick and thin. And this love was evident in the Walls right through the novel, even when the girls got older and started to set their sights on another city, knowing deep inside that they could make sucessful lives with the greater opportunities elsewhere.

What I could not really grasp however was the financial resources of their mother, Rose Walls. Did she really have to live this way? Why did she choose this way when it seems that she was an educated woman; for she was indeed a talented artist and a school teacher, and had a lot to fall back on including property left to here by family. With all this and yet she chose this uncertain life for her lovely children.

This book gives a very interesting look at a dysfunctional family and was for me a smooth page-turner. This book should make an ideal gift for any occasion.

Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE May 1st, 2006)
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT A THROW AWAY BOOK, ONE OF MY TOP TEN!
I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN. I ORIGINALLY BORROWED A COPY BUT THEN HAD TO PURCHASE ONE SO I COULD LOAN IT OUT TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS. I WILL EVENTUALLY READ IT AGAIN. Read more
Published 12 days ago by KAREN L WILLIAMS
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good book.
Published 13 days ago by P. Lemieux
5.0 out of 5 stars The storyline was excellent. I had a hard time putting the book ...
What an interesting book. The storyline was excellent. I had a hard time putting the book down as I wanted to know what would happen next. The book was sad and funny. Read more
Published 23 days ago by ginette
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
Great red. Couldn't put it down.
Published 24 days ago by Kevan Yuck
5.0 out of 5 stars SO GOOD.
Very very good memoir. I could not put the book down. Buy it right now!
Published 26 days ago by Lysianne
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was a wonderful read! I could relate to many of Jeannette's experiences.
Published 1 month ago by Ms.Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extraordinary bookI read it long ago and I bought this copy as a Christmas gift.
Published 2 months ago by sandra
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast
Fast shipping as always happy to have this book it was recommended to me by a number of friends and I look forward to finishing it!
Published 3 months ago by Lindsay
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful
Captures you from the first page. This book is hard to put down, Jeanette Walls does a spectacular job of conveying her experiences of her childhood.
Published 4 months ago by Raegan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Sensitizer
This haunting story is a real sensitizer to the feelings, thoughts and plight of neglected - but resilient - children. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Eleanor Cowan
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