May 5, 2011

Review | The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Genre: Non-Fiction - Memoir
Publication: 01.09.06 by Scribner
Pages: 288 (9 Cd's)
Source: Library

Summary: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

Cover: A little plain, but somehow it fits.

Thoughts: I am not a fan of memoirs, biographies and most non-fiction. I specifically say that in my About page and I will usually stay away from that section at libraries or bookstores. Jeannette's Walls books though, are the exception. Last year, I read her second book Half Broke Horses, a true-life novel about her grandmother. I honestly wasn't too excited to read it, and only picked it up because it was one of my book club picks. I spent an entire day in bed reading it because I couldn't put it down. So I was pretty excited to pick up The Glass Castle when I saw it at the library.

I can happily say, I was not disappointed at all. I wasn't too sure what exactly to expect from reading the small synopsis provided on the back of the audio version, but I was captivated by Walls amazing story from the start. The first chapter begins with her recollection of when she was 3 years old and she burns herself while cooking. From the start we get a glimpse of what her parents are like and where this may lead her family. Living as nomads, they travel along the West Coast, always searching for the next adventure, but always falling on hard times.

Jeannette is a tough girl and along with her three siblings, she must learn to survive and be able to handle each situation they are thrown in by their parents. From being bullied and beat up to school, to running out of town in the middle of the night to escape the law, her family leads a very difficult life full of "adventures," which aren't always optional, but definitely memorable. It's hard to say that Jeannette is a "likable character" because she is a real life person, but she writes her story, her family and everyone else involved so well, that you feel a connection to each of them. Her writing is truly great, and as a reader I was able to feel like a part of the story, feel the hope, disappointment, and worry that she describes herself going through in amazing detail

She went through a whole lot in just a few years, and she was able to turn it into an amazing story for others to enjoy. She was a young brave girl, and although times were tough for her, the love she had for her family and her never ending hope that things would turn out better, made her into the courageous woman she became. Although for many years she was ashamed of the life she lived, and never spoke of it, she was able to finally tell it to everyone interested in such a beautiful way that it will captive every reader.

Favorite Quote: "Mom also believed in letting nature take its course. She refused to kill the flies that always filled the house. She said they were nature's food for the birds and lizards, and the birds and lizards were the food for the cats. 'Kill the flies and you starve the cats,' she said. Letting the flies live, in her view, was the same as buying cat food, only cheaper."


  1. I read this way back last year, but never reviewed it. I found Jeannette Walls to be likeable as well and enjoyed this memoir, and I'm not a huge memoir fan.

    Fabulous review!

    -here from CEP

  2. I've heard amazing things about this book, so I'm also going to have to pick it up. Glad you liked it!

    Here from CEP. :)

  3. I don't normally read a lot of non fiction either, but this does sound pretty good. I might have to check it out! Great review!

  4. Thanks for the review, I've heard some good responses to this book, so I'm sure it's pretty good.