The Glass Castle; Jeannette Walls

glass castle

How much you enjoy this book depends on how much you can relate to a dysfunctional family. If it makes you cringe, read something else. If you can laugh at the tangled web of loyalty and love, and the inevitable clash of personalities, this is your book.

The Glass Castle is a memoir about Jeannette’s childhood, focusing on her interaction with her parents and siblings. Her mother is an artist, self-indulgent, and little interested in spending time on her children. Her father is charming, but an alcoholic given to rages, and more interested in tinkering with his inventions than holding down a job. The ultimate free spirits, the adults treated moving frequently, living in poor conditions, going without food, electricity, and good clothes as an adventure. And sometimes it was, full of laughs and tall tales… but as the children grew older, they found the world had other options.

Homes where no one went hungry, or was stared at and made fun of for their clothes, where life was more certain. And to one degree or another, they grew to want that more settled life. They started to care for themselves, moving away and seeking independence. It’s not so easy to outgrow your family and past, though.

Any family contains a variety of personalities, sometimes a rather volatile mix. Jeannette Walls’ family is impressively strange, full of sparks and danger, told with a sense of the child she once was–who thought all this was normal. Somehow, it is almost an adventure as she tells the story. But the most interesting thing was the person she grew into. Yes, her childhood was tough–unnecessarily so, but so is she. It’s heartening to know, that even if your childhood shapes you, you can grow past it. You can become someone different from your parents, make different choices–different mistakes and different achievements… live a different life.


About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

6 responses »

  1. I read this book a couple years ago. You wrote a good book review.

  2. Regina West says:

    I read The Glass Castle a few years ago and really enjoyed it. And I agree with you that the most impressive thing is the woman she became despite her crazy upbringing.

    • caitlinstern says:

      People might wish they could have perfect, uneventful childhoods–and certainly it would be less painful–but I think sometimes those childhoods create strong, amazing adults.

  3. Thanks so much for reminding me about this one. I found it left behind in someone’s room when I was working in a hotel in Paris and loved it. I can’t even relate to dysfunctional families but I was enraptured by hers

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