The Glass Castle

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I’m reading Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle, which opens with Walls, an accomplished writer, seeing her mother digging through a dumpster on the streets of New York City. Memories of an impoverished, unstable — yet not unloving — childhood come flooding back. Walls and her three siblings grew up constantly doing “the skedaddle” — moving from one town to the next, often in the middle of the night, to avoid debt collectors, angry landlords, school officials and the like. Her alcoholic, chronically unemployed father dreamed of striking it rich with “The Prospector,” a device designed to find gold. Her mother, an aspiring painter, prided herself on her “career” and encouraged the children to fend for themselves. (Walls, at age three, burned herself severely while cooking hot dogs. Upon her return home from the hospital, there was nothing to eat and she found herself once again using the stove. “Good for you,” her mother said to her. “You’ve got to get back in the saddle!”)

The book is ludicrous, funny, and heart-wrenching, often at the same time. I’m not finished with it yet, and even though I know the ultimate outcome, I’m curious to see how it is that Walls makes her way to New York City and relates to her parents as an adult.

–Amanda Makula

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One Response to The Glass Castle

  1. Carla says:

    I took your recommendation, Amanda–and The Glass Castle kept me up reading into the wee hours. As you said, it’s funny, sad and maddening, often all at the same time. What a testimony to human resilience, the power of love and the mystery of individual differences. The three older Walls children thrived despite shocking hardships and neglect. I have to assume that the key factors were that their deeply flawed parents still clearly loved them and that the children had each other to rely upon. Yet their youngest sister was hospitalized as an adult, seriously damaged by her childhood. Why the dramatic difference?

    I was happy to find a video of an interview with Jeannette Walls on the web–her appearance on the Colbert Report, of all places–and also a chat Q and A session. And I learned that she had long been a celebrity gossip columnist for MSNBC! She admits that she may have enjoyed “unmasking” celebrities as a way of showing herself (before she revealed her own background in Glass Castle) that everyone has a skeleton in the closet.

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