Book #13: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was a five cent thrift store find. I had no idea what a great work I was getting for a nickel. This memoir is about the author’s childhood growing up with her siblings under neglectful parents. Her father was a brilliant, paranoid, pathological liar and alcoholic, while her mother was a self-centered immature woman who hated the idea of motherhood yet had four children that needed her. Walls grows up in abject poverty, the likes of which I could not have imagined before reading her story. Despite her childhood, Walls and most of her siblings are able to find their way to education, employment, and family – a life far different than they experienced growing up. Memoirs like this give me pause: why write and read these types of stories? It can leave the reader feeling voyeuristic and smug, reveling in the fact that their life isn’t that bad. But after pondering this question for a while I decided these stories, like most stories of struggle and difficulty, are important because they show others in similar situations that they are not alone and that there is hope. And for those of us that have not experienced trials like this, it makes us aware to the invisible realities around us. This memoir in particular is excellently written, and in such a way that evokes empathy for all those involved. Walls also skillfully juxtaposes the dreamy idealism and hope of childhood with the obvious neglect the children experienced. It’s a weighty story to work through but worth the read. 

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