Friday, July 13, 2012

The Glass Castle

Book Review

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

I knew I wanted to read this book for quite some time.

But before that, I heard about it from a friend. She said it was disturbing. I wasn't so inclined to want to read it then.

Fast forward a couple of years.

I read the second book from Jeannette Walls. Half Broke Horses.

I loved it.

I told my husband that that book might change my life.

I don't think it has (yet), but anything is possible.


Well, I loved Half Broke Horses so much that I had now made up my mind that I was going to read this book.

My friend warned me again.

"You don't want to read it. It is disturbing. Really disturbing."

I knew it was going to disturb me, but I really wanted to read it now.


Despite being disturbing.

Disturbing or not (and how could you not be disturbed by this book?), this is worth every minute of your time.

The Glass Castle

This is a memoir of Ms. Walls' childhood. The disturbing part is every part. Every part of this book seems to have something disturbing in it.

There is nothing you can just skip to get past the disturbing part.

Ms. Walls was raised by some rather free-spirited parents.

Not "free-spirited" in the sense of hippies. Not in the sense of weirdos. Not in the sense of homeless people.

Although, homeless they were, for most of her childhood. Well, they had homes, but most of the time they were not thought of as anything more than temporary. And they usually weren't.

Her parents had some unique ideas about raising kids. Raising them to be tough was a common theme. While this is not a particularly unique way of raising kids, the Walls' methods were quite unique.

Unless, of course, it is common to let three-year-olds cook their own hotdogs in boiling water on the stove.

By themselves.


I didn't think so.

See? Disturbing.

And that is just the beginning.

And yet, throughout the book, I never got the feeling that Ms. Walls hated her parents for what they did. Her narrative seems to transmit a substantial amount of love and accommodation, along with shame and embarrassment, if not complete understanding.


That's what the writing of this disturbing story makes me think. The writing is compassionate.

That doesn't change the fact that those kids probably should have been removed from those parents' custody.

I can't imagine how Ms. Walls managed to write this story of her life this way.

I can only imagine how I might have written such a story. That's not a pretty image.

Ms. Walls is a fantastic writer and for that reason alone, I was willing to read any disturbing story she might write.

The fact that this is a true story just makes it all the more powerful.

Congratulations, Ms. Walls, you are a survivor. And a success. And a writer of true distinction.

How did you manage it?

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