Well, to start off I would like to say that this book took me longer to read than I would’ve liked it to. It’s not a very long book so normally I would’ve had it done in a day or two…maybe a week tops if I had a busy week. But it took me months to get through this book. No that’s not me saying that I didn’t like the book, to be honest I loved it! But there were parts that would just….anger me and I would have to put it down and walk away from it for a while.
The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeanette Walls, which details her unconventional childhood. She grew up with an alcoholic father and a mother who seems to be mentally ill. Walls began her memoir by why she felt the need to write about her family. She has finally “made it”, a successful writer in New York City. One day as she’s strolling down the street she comes across her mother…picking out of the dumpster, and out of shame, she sinks down into the seat of her taxi and pretends that she didn’t notice her. Later she will confront her mother, asking her what she is supposed to tell people about her parents. Her mother replies by telling her to tell the truth….simple as that. If you think about it, it’s really not that simple.
As Walls tries to come to terms with her upbringing throughout this memoir you begin to realize that The Glass Castle is anything but simple. We begin by learning of her young childhood on the west coast, her parents living as nomads. They moved so often between desert towns, always looking for the next big “adventure”. This chapter of Walls’ life we mainly get a look at her mother. She’s an artist and a writer, living in her own world. She doesn’t particularly show any concern in raising her children. She’s always looking for the next adventure…the next struggle. The family soon gives up their residence in Phoenix that her mother had inherited to move to her father’s home town of West Virginia…a small depressed coal town.
Once in West Virginia, the story begins to take a turn down a dark road. In this small town of West Virginia, the family begins to drift apart. Their father has taken a very dark turn, and up until this point he has always been the light of his daughters eye…..not so much anymore. Like their mother, their father has a big imagination. He takes small odd jobs that never seem to last long, and he is always chasing after this long lost dream to strike it rich with one of his crazy inventions. He continues to promise over and over again that once he strikes it rich he will build his family a “glass castle” – the most special project….a great big house for his family to settle down in. As their time in West Virginia goes on, things continue to get worse. However, Walls and her brother do their best to make the most of it. Feeding off of their father’s promise of the glass castle, they thought they would help him out by starting a hole in the backyard for the foundation of the new house. After it had been finished for a while, the family began to realize that there were certain things that they just couldn’t afford. One of them being trash pickup…which meant that the hole in the yard that was supposed to be used for the new house…would now be used for trash.
This is one of the situations that really angered me. These parents are just deliberately not taking care of their children. Making them empty promises and not caring how it could effect them later on in life. It really frustrated me that these parents…grown adults, could let their children go hungry, cold and without proper clothes or showers. These were the points where I had to put the book down for a while and breathe. The fact that I know there are still kids out there today that go through situations just like this one…makes me so angry. I feel for these children, I feel for the author, knowing that she lived this life.
Anyways…rant over. Determined not to end up like her parents, Walls moved herself to New York. She will go to college, graduate, gain employment as a writer, marry a rich husband, and settle down in her Park Avenue apartment. Walls tries to get her parents to visit her new apartment, to get a sneak peek into her new lifestyle. Her father of course refuses, her mother visits, but questions her values. Tells her that she raised her differently and that she shouldn’t be living the way that she is.
Umm values?? No offense but I didn’t realize that not feeding your children and basically living on the street were values that you wanted your children to pick up. I thought that parents were always supposed to want more for their kids. That they were supposed to want their kids to have more than they did, have better jobs, go to better schools. Just an overall better life. Instead, Walls has done just that and she is getting criticized for it….so unfair.
Now, I understand that there is probably more to this than meets the eye. Sure her parents were a drunk father and a somewhat lazy mother, but after reading and really reflecting on this memoir I feel like there are other lessons to be learned here. It reminds me of the quote….
I mean if you think about it, as Walls grew up she never really seemed unhappy until she was really old enough to understand what was going on. Each time they moved she really did see it as an adventure. Did her parents always provide her and her siblings with the food, clothes and other things that they needed? No. But what they did provide them with was love and happiness. All of their kids grew up believing in themselves, with an appreciation for the things that most of us take for granted today but most importantly they were loved, unconditionally.
Though they struggled to get through this crazy thing called life, they did it. They all made it. Did they all make it big? No they didn’t but they made it. We all grow up with struggles, they’re all different. But our struggles are what make us beautiful.
Have you read The Glass Castle or maybe seen the movie?? If you have please let me know what you thought in the comments below! I would love to hear from you!!
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