The Glass Castle eReader by Jeannette Walls
Click Here to Download the Book 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 MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
Reviews It was C.S. Lewis who said, "We read to know we are not alone". If that is true, then reading THE GLASS CASTLE, a memoir, by Jeannette Walls, helped me to realize I am not alone in my struggle to escape the pain of my childhood. It wasn't that Jeannette Walls parents were unloving. They loved her in their own way. (If love can be love, when it is not bound by certain rules of behavior). But, it seems they didn't provide for her, even the basics of food, clothing, or a decent roof over her head. Her mother had a teaching degree, but for the most part, chose to go hungry and let her children go hungry rather than work. The title THE GLASS CASTLE comes from the fact that her father, Rex Walls, was always talking about this Glass Castle he was going to build for the family. The fact that Rex Walls was a serious Alcholic who seemed to spend every available penny on drink and not on his family seems to have been outside his scope of comprehension. He never did build the glass castle.
If you are a child of some background you want to escape, you will love this book. If you are a reader who is obsessed with stories of someone who was able to grow beyond the difficulties of their childhood and find success, you will love this book. Or if you just like to read a book by a great storyteller, get this book. I'm buying copies for all my friends.
This is a book about the author's struggles growing up in extreme poverty. I never thought conditions of poverty like this could still exist in the United States; it is both an inspiration (she overcomes so much!), and also an eye-opening introduction to modern social problems. Nobody should have to live through what Jeannette Walls describes growing up around! Yet she survived and made it through. At one point she gives a vivid account of waking up in the night to a slobbering drunk in her room, who had wandered in, because there was no lock on the front door (or maybe he came in through the window?); at the time, her family was living in a very run down shack of a house in the Appalachian region. Another time, she describes the shouting match between her and another child in the neighborhood, and that she believed her father was much better than the other child's father because HER father had never "pissed himself" while drunk. Eek! It is exactly these explicit, yet intimately candid, windows into her life that make this such a moving story. She also describes her mother's struggles with a relationship that is holding her back -- and that her mother was never able to escape abject poverty because she refuses to leave the man she loves. It is both a heart-wrenching proclamation of loyalty, and also a maddening, mindless devotion to a life that is getting the family nowhere, and in the process, tearing apart the children from the inside out. I recommend reading this book alongside Oh the Glory of it All (by Sean Wilsey) because the contrast is absolutely striking and, on the whole, extremely illuminating of human character, and development of responsibility in the face of adversity. Walls was able to take all of her experiences and use them to learn and grow from. As a child, she swore to herself that she would "make it out" of that life -- and she did. I highly recommend this book!
The poverty and hunger in this story is beyond what most of us might imagine to be possible in the 60's and 70's here in America. As in Angela's Ashes, the mother is an enabler of sorts and you just wish she would get a job, support the family, and leave her husband. This is a heart-renching (it is a wonder those children lived to adulthood) story that is inspiring because three of these four children became survivors and had a work ethic that their parents didn't. Sometimes you wished that the social workers would have been able to intervene (the Walls were too smart for that) but perhaps foster care would not have been much better. It is amazing to see two adults who are intelligent but seem unable or unwilling to assume the responsibilites of adulthood. In today's world one suspects that one if not both of these adults were extremely intelligent but plagued by ADD or dyslexia and other learning challenges and were unable to reach their potential. Jeanette Walls has written a truly valuable recollection of an highly unusual, if not tragic, childhood which resulted in triumph. I have to admire her for being so generous in sharing her life. We are all the richer for experiencing this story.
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