on August 6, 2007
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.
on January 22, 2007
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!
on July 11, 2007
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.
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!
on June 27, 2006
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)
on May 25, 2006
THE GLASS CASTLE is truly one of the most remarkable memoirs you will ever read. Jeannette Walls is an extraordinary storyteller and her childhood recollections are so spellbinding that you won't be able to put this book down. Likened to BARK OF THE DOGWOOD with its themes of abuse and dysfunction, THE GLASS CASTLE will take your breath away. The author, her sisters Lori and Maureen and her brother Brian were raised by parents who were dreamers. And of course, dreams do not pay the rent or feed the family. The children were often hungry (imagine eating Wonder bread and lard sandwiches), dirty, and dressed in hand-me-down clothes. Each child learned to cope in their own way with their extreme poverty, their father's alcoholism and extended absences, and their mother's moody and abstract sense of reality. This is NOT a mean or angry story, though. It is the author's loving tribute to her family who - despite it all - stuck together and survived crushing adversity. I adored this family. You will too. THE GLASS CASTLE is an unforgettable book.
on September 7, 2007
Intellectually I know that there are people out there that live their lives like this but I never knew that some people live this way out of choice! I found this book to be a quickly moving story (although I found some of the chapters quite short.) Even when the author was describing something depressing and sad (like the numerous sexual advances made on her from the time she was a young girl) she never got bogged down in self-pity. An excellent read that you will have to make yourself remember is a true story.
Dysfunctional hardly describes Jeannette Wallis's family environment. The childhood and adolescence she describes must have readers repeatedly cringing and shaking their heads. But Walls knows how to lift up her narrative to overcome the gloom. Yes, even in the most bizarre, painful and hopeless situations she portrays ironically her parents' quirky attitudes about life in general and parental roles in particular. Most remarkable is her own incredible tenacity and resourcefulness to overcome her own and her siblings hardships time after time.
As unlikely as it sounds Wells has managed to write an entertaining memoir about children caught in a web of parental irresponsibility which includes physical violence, verbal abuse, addictions and starvation. The four children are often left to fend for themselves but stick together and devise plans and methods to survive. They have an unstable father whose pride, delusions of grandeur and alcoholic rages hijack his ability to function responsibly. However, his intellectual interests, zany humour and sporadic sense of paternal and spousal duty--and even love--provide sufficient positive influence to keep his family intact until the children devise ways to leave. They have a mother who abstains from alcohol but suffers from bipolar extremes of activity or lethargy, and of encouragement or melancholia. She is nonchalantly self-reliant but disorganized, failing to accept the reality of her and her children's predicament and her husband's deficiencies. She is compulsively creative, drawing and painting even in dire and chaotic circumstances.
Jeannette Walls demonstrates a unique ability to describe her life's afflictions tragicomically. This book is never boring. Readers will be left with a lingering impression that "hope can sustain us and lives eternally for those who have the fortitude to believe."
I came to this book because my fiancee recommended it to me a couple of years ago and I'm just now getting around to reading it. Suffice to say that when my fiancee recommends something you should not waste years getting around to it.
In a nutshell, this is one of the most powerful books I've read in half a century on the planet. Walls' story of her childhood is not only easy for me to relate to but it also makes me just downright angry. Her parents reeked of an abominable failure to be responsible and look out for their own children that just shakes me to my very core. While this is 300 pages of small type this is just the sort of book you could inhale at one passionate gulp sitting outside on a summers say. If you start reading you'll be lucky to escape before the last page.
Generally, I try to balance my reviews by describing both the positive and the negative of a novel but in this case I'm hard pressed. "The Glass Castle" could easily be described as a modern classic as it sums up with great vividness an all too common situation in the half-century. The free-thinking hippies cum parents who completely failed to give a damn about their own children are all too prolific and Walls describes her own beautifully. My only realistic negative results from the ending which seems clipped and far too succinct. I suppose in this format there's little choice in the matter but I could have anticipated another 300 pages or complete omission of the end.
In summary, this is by far the best memoir I have read in recent recollection. The author's view is candid and heartfelt but does not commit the sin of meandering into self-pity like many would in this situation. This title is a best seller with a heart and soul and a pointed comment to any parent who fails to recognize the needs of their own child. I cannot recommend this one enough.
Jeannette Walls tells her story of the bizarre circumstances of her past. The story begins in a trailer park in a Southern Arizona town when she is only three years old.
She is wearing her beautiful pink dress which her grandmother bought for her. She feels hungry and decides to make herself hotdogs. Her parents are nowhere in sight, so she climbs on a chair with her pretty pink dress and not surprising, she's on fire. She screams out and her mother comes running in, rushes for an old thick army blanket and rolls her in it to smother the flames. She is then brought to a neighbor, since her father had taken off with the car and the neighbor drives them to the hospital. She is there for several days and lucky to be alive. Her parents then bring her home.
Her parents are highly educated people. The father is into the bottle and can't hold a steady job. He has grandiose ideas and plans to build his family a Glass Castle, when he comes into money. When he is sober, he captures the children's imagination and teaches them physics, geology and how to face life's challenges. On the other hand, when he is drinking he is dishonest and destructive.
The mother is an artist, teacher and a free spirit and in no way is she interested in staying home and raising a family. She feels that the children can raise themselves. There are three other siblings as well.
Because the parents don't pay their bills, they're always on the lam or as the father says "doing the skedaddle" to avoid the bill collectors. He is always afraid the Federal Investigators are out to get him, so they move from state to state. He gets the odd job, but can't hold it. They are dirt poor. The children sleep in cardboard boxes. They find food in trash cans, have no electricity and no indoor plumbing. There were days when they lived on popcorn.
What boggles my mind is that their mentally fragile mother owns property, but then again she is unbalanced. What Can you expect?
The children are now older and Jeannette has a plan to move to New York City as soon as she saves up enough money. Her goal is to make something of herself and then bring her siblings there too.
After some time in New York she becomes a very successful journalist and sends for her siblings. Even their parents follow and continue to live the same old life of gypsies.
Jeannette Walls is not bitter after all the hardship she has been through, nor does she carry any grudges towards her parents. This woman has a beautiful soul.
This is a book about survival and making it in life in spite of the odds.
There is only one word to describe this book and it is SPECTACULAR.