I just finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and I had to take a deep breath. This was a toughie for me. I spent the good first half of the memoir shaking my head and wondering whether I really wanted to keep reading through this dysfunctional family. I kept wanting the Department of Children and Families to go in and swoop the four kids away from those reckless parents. But then again, it wouldn’t have left as much of an imprint, I think. By the end of the memoir, I want to know what happens and I’m rooting for Jeannette and her siblings to get out of that oppressive hole.
This is going to be on the short side, and while I should be going straight to sleep, I have to make this transition from end of book to the mundane (have I mentioned I like that word?).
The Glass Castle is certainly a memoir about acceptance. Where Eat, Pray, Love contained a self-conscious, woe-is-me tone, Walls writes without blame. She is matter-of-fact, here is what happened, and she doesn’t succumb to lamenting her childhood. It proves how strong she really is.
It’s also a memoir about love, in a dysfunctional, different kind of way. It astounds me that two brilliant people like her parents could be so irresponsible. I have an almost-three-year-old son and I could never imagine doing the things Walls’s mom did. I shook my head many times during this past week, while I read her memoir. I shook my head in incredulity.
I brought out my imaginary pom-poms, though, when she finally had enough and told her mom and dad off, and when she and her sisters and brother broke free. The parents became the children and the children the parents. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others, and in The Glass Castle it certainly was obvious.
But the end. Oh the end. The part when her dad asks to speak to her and, in the same call, asks for a bottle of Vodka – that part reminded me of my dad. Not because of the alcohol, because my dad didn’t drink, but because my dad’s addiction to smoking was just as bad as her dad’s with alcohol. In the end, I gave up fighting his smoking habits and indulged him. It killed him indirectly, in the end, but I still indulged him.
So I definitely recommend this memoir, but it’s not for the faint of mind. Those with children, beware, because it has you clutching on to your own kids more dearly. I’m still amazed that after going through such a childhood, Jeannette Walls came out brilliant and overcame the set backs in which she was born.