Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls: a memoir of a different type of childhood

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir about her childhood and life with her parents. Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls, were dreamers who set out to have a life beyond the dictates of society. Ms. Walls retells the adventures and missteps of her childhood.

The book opens with adult Jeannette seeing her homeless mother on the street, rummaging though the trash. Hoping that she’s not spotting, she runs back to her safe apartment. Ashamed that she ran from her mother, she opens up on how her mother ended up on the street. The Walls’ family’s life as they lived in various places of the southwest and eventually a small town in coal country of West Virginia. The Walls children go through various injuries that would seem extreme to anyone else but to her parents, they were battle scars of life and they would learn and survive. The family had the habit of picking up and leaving in the middle of the night. They lived like nomads, moving from place to place, only leaving when they got caught or were in danger of getting caught. Caught for what? Jeannette’s dad always told fantastical stories about why they had to run, mostly in entertain the children.

The Glass Castle is her father’s impossible dream. His dream of a big house in the desert with glass ceiling and walls with solar panels. Her father always had a “get rich quick” schemes. Her parents’ relationship was volatile fueled by alcohol and disappointment. As the children grow and learn to see their parents’ lives and lies for what they were. They find the strength within themselves to better themselves. Eventually all the children would make it to New York City. There, they would graduate high school, college and begins their careers. All the while their parents live their lives as they always have, on the edge of society, taking with little giving and making promises that cannot be delivered.

I enjoyed reading The Glass Castle, although there were sometimes I thought this can’t be possible but then I’ve heard stranger stories. Jeannette Walls’ story is told with brutal honest and love. As you read, you see the world through the wonderment of a 3 year old eyes to the critical eye of an adult. You get that the parents’ loved their children and they did their best in their education and their care. They just couldn’t or didn’t want to live the conventional life that everyone else did.

“Life is a drama full of tragedy and comedy. 
You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more” 
–Rose Mary Walls