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The Glass Castle: A Memoir
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Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents' knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them--despite their overwhelming self-absorption--resonates from cover to cover. --Brangien Davis

The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing -- a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar, but loyal, family. Jeannette Walls has a story to tell, and tells it brilliantly, without an ounce of self-pity.

Customer Reviews:

  • I couldn't put it down..
    The book was so very easy to read. I found myself reading it EVERY chance I could get.. it was quite mesmerizing. I definitely could relate with the author, in numerous ways.. the writing just flowed so smoothly you could easily read it in one reading .. There are 1200 other reviews here, so I won't go into too much detail over it, except for the obvious, that it is a must read, you won't put it down..

    I'll say this though, I had to be self sufficient in my adventures when I was a child, however you find that you can't completely hate her parents for what she and her siblings went through, you almost think, that her parents did a pretty good job instilling the necessities, educating them on the randoms, and making sure they had the most important (values, literature..)even if they couldn't provide much of the vitals. It only makes me think what a truly amazing and phenomenal woman the author is for growing up with what she had, plus the broad range of adventures, enduring what she did, and handling it with such vitality and strength. It's most definitely commendable. I loved reading the book, enjoyed it to the last page. ...more info
  • Wow!
    This story made me cry laugh and cry some more. While I am so sad for everything this family has had to go through I am so happy they have made the very best of it. I really felt for the father in this story the most. He had such potential for being a wonderful parent, but alcoholism got in his way. I felt so sad that he was never ever able to reach his dreams. I'm so glad that Jannette and her siblings were able to live theirs. What a brave woman she is. I would recommend reading this book. But be aware there is lots of foul language. ...more info
  • Far Fetched.
    An interesting read. However, I would not consider this a page turner. Some of the stories seem hard to believe... such as cooking hotdogs at 3 years old? Take it with a grain of salt and you will most likely enjoy this book. I would like to slap her lazy mom though. Hard....more info
  • Unbelieveable
    You will not believe how the children of these dysfunctional adults survived. I doubt if today's children could be this resourceful. Should be required reading in all schools....more info
  • The Essential Strangeness of Reality
    Goethe wrote that "Few people have the imagination for reality." I think he meant that imagination is not a matter of making things up; it's a means of helping people see what is there -- but in a way that makes it luminous so that we say, "Ah, I have never really seen that before and it's been there all the time." The Glass Castle is a demonstration of this principle. The book will delight those who have an open mind/heart and outrage the philistines. I wouldn't have it any other way. Terrific book....more info
  • intelligent but no common sense
    After my husband read this book, he made me promise to read it. I was intrigued that he asked me as he is not much of a reader. After I read it, I had a lot of feelings of anger with these parents. How could they have education and be so stupid. I bought several copies and had them sent to friends. Lots to talk about afterwards....more info
  • Must read
    what a great book, a real page turner. goes to show you can pull yourself out of a rut and make something of yourself. Congradulations!...more info
  • Amazing Story
    The Glass Castle: A Memoir
    This was an amazing story, especially in that it is a true story. I am amazed that an entire family could go on like this for years and that everyone thought it was OK....more info
  • Things like these really do happen!
    I listened to the audio version of this book while working and I finished last week. For me, the test on weather or not a book is truly "good" is if you miss the characters when it is over. I have found myself wondering what the characters are up to now, wanting to go visit them again. I LOVED THIS BOOK!

    Some criticisms are that the book is simply written. One just needs to pick up the classic "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" to see that simplicity can really bring out meaning. Another criticism is "How could she possibly remember these incidents in such detail?" To which my answer would be that it is a memoir, not an autobiography. A memoir is written to tell one's life in a story format. You would be surprised at how many details pop out of your brain if you tried to remember. I have very distinct memories of being three years old and even younger! Many people do remember that far!

    One more criticism I wish to address is "How could all these far out crazy things have happened in one family?" People who live in normal 'protected' family atmospheres their whole lives do not believe that the hardships described in this novel could possibly happen to unprotected children and families. I have no doubt to their truth because some of the things described in the book have happened to me. Memoirs are for people with lives like hers, not for those who lead the protected bliss of childhood. I think the Oprah scandal of "A Million Little Pieces" lead us to distrust the memoir too readily. The author does not owe the audience proof, just a good story....more info
  • For anyone that struggled through childhood.
    I could be biased due to the similarities in my life and hers, but I was fully invested in this book. I Love her writing style, she really holds nothing back. Its an honest look into a less than ordinary life. It proves that despite having all the odds stacked against you, it is possible to come out ahead in life, yet still appreciate some aspects of a childhood sullied....more info
  • Unbelieveable
    You will not believe how the children of these dysfunctional adults survived. I doubt if today's children could be this resourceful. Should be required reading in all schools....more info
  • Gripping.
    This book was difficult to put down, especially mid way through when life for the Walls' became REALLY difficult. The reason, however, that I gave it four stars instead of five is that I got the sense that the author was writing this memoir because she had a score to settle with her parents - in particular her mother. While I do believe her mother probably was selfish and neglectful, I just couldn't help but feel like it was so extreme that it seemed like propaganda. The mother was just sooooo over-the-TOP selfish and uninterested in her children that it was bordering on incredulous. However, if this is what truly happened to the author then I feel empathy for her. She did make a point, however, of showing the reader how her neglectful childhood made her into the resourceful, strong person she is today. Either way, it's an excellent read and will make most people realize that - while they were growing up - their parents weren't as awful as they perceived them to be. ...more info
  • A Brilliant and Poignant Memoir of an Off-the Grid Dysfunctional Family
    Wow! There are over 1,200 reviews for this book. That's a great thing because this book should be read.

    This is a brilliant and poignant memoir of a family that lives hand-to-mouth. They are beyond eccentricity and quirkiness, virtually off the grid. One might even refer to them as outcasts or 'pariah poor'.

    How the author navigates her life, goes to college and makes her own family is an homage to resilience and denial....more info
  • Embarrassing if True
    I read this book because I loved "Angela's Ashes". What I got was a story that suspended credulity and cause such a dislike of the author for capitalizing on such sordid memories (fantasies). To write about a father who was willing to offer his young daughter for his personal gain, the sexual abuse of one of the parents, and the willingness of a mother to bring up children while sitting on vast resources should be a source of embarrassment and have been kept "in the family". In fact, these episodes seemed to be made up to add a little spice to the boring narrative. There were no redeeming individuals in the book and no self-affirming experiences. The author should be ashamed of herself for capitalizing on the mental illness of her parents, if the story is true at all....more info
  • A Novel Menagerie's Perspective on The Glass Castle
    This is a story of love and triumph despite the worst circumstances possible. What this family goes through, in their journey through life fraught with poverty and hunger... fear and alcoholism. In the beginning of the book, I am horrified when I read that, as a three year old, Jeannette is cooking hot dogs on the stove in her little pink dress and burns herself terribly. As a mother, I shout aloud to this book, "WHAT?!?" In any event, that's just the beginning of the atrocities that these poor children endure due to their parents' choices.


    Jeannette Walls
    This family lives a life on the road, running from the law, from poverty, and from a "normal life." Even when they get a fair chance at living a decent life, they hap-hazardously leave their home and belongings behind due to their father's insistence. The dynamic between Jeannette's mother and father is unlike anything I've ever heard of. It makes me look at the fine line between genius and insanity. To look at the picture of Jeannette's parents in the front of the book, you would imagine a life of "normalcy." NOT AT ALL.

    There are several lump-in-the-throat, hard-to-swallow events in Jeannette's story and it seems that the story just keeps getting worse and worse. But, it isn't the string of events that makes this a beautiful story, it's the way in which the children faced them and dealt with them (well, her sister is an exception towards the end). By the end of the book, I hated the parents for making the choices they did and hurting their children to that degree. Despite everything the children endured, they each found a way out of their poor living conditions in West Virginia and made it to New York... one at a time. I just kept hoping that they would be free of the madness of their parents in New York and start good, new lives. But, their parents follow them there and live as homeless people to be near them.

    The ending of this story, if you haven't read it... it a true piece of disbelief! I still shake my head and can't believe what these parents put their kids through knowing what I know at the end of the book. All I can say is that, IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK... READ IT IMMEDIATELY! Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Immediately READ. You will be engrossed and unable to put this book down. You will feel so grateful for your childhood that you'll find it hard to ever complain about it again.

    Sher's "Out of Ten" Scale:
    So, if you've read up to this point, I bet you know what I am going to say... I am giving it a 10 out of 10! And, if you've never read it.... and you do read it as a result of reading this review, you must email me so we can chat about some of the components of the book, especially the lot foundation section of the book!

    ...more info
  • Loved this book!
    If you enjoy memoirs you'll really love reading this book. Can't wait until her next title comes out....more info
  • Things like these really do happen!
    I listened to the audio version of this book while working and I finished last week. For me, the test on weather or not a book is truly "good" is if you miss the characters when it is over. I have found myself wondering what the characters are up to now, wanting to go visit them again. I LOVED THIS BOOK!

    Some criticisms are that the book is simply written. One just needs to pick up the classic "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" to see that simplicity can really bring out meaning. Another criticism is "How could she possibly remember these incidents in such detail?" To which my answer would be that it is a memoir, not an autobiography. A memoir is written to tell one's life in a story format. You would be surprised at how many details pop out of your brain if you tried to remember. I have very distinct memories of being three years old and even younger! Many people do remember that far!

    One more criticism I wish to address is "How could all these far out crazy things have happened in one family?" People who live in normal 'protected' family atmospheres their whole lives do not believe that the hardships described in this novel could possibly happen to unprotected children and families. I have no doubt to their truth because some of the things described in the book have happened to me. Memoirs are for people with lives like hers, not for those who lead the protected bliss of childhood. I think the Oprah scandal of "A Million Little Pieces" lead us to distrust the memoir too readily. The author does not owe the audience proof, just a good story....more info
  • The Glass Castle
    How many of us could forgive our alcoholic parents for providing a dismal childhood? How many of us could not only survive, but build a stable, solid & successful life despite that? And how many of us, once we had climbed out of a seriously dysfunctional family, still stay in touch with our parents -- and THEN FIND THE GRACE TO FORGIVE THEM? Most of all this is a parable of forgiveness - a parable that could be in the Bible....more info
  • Amazing Story
    The Glass Castle: A Memoir
    This was an amazing story, especially in that it is a true story. I am amazed that an entire family could go on like this for years and that everyone thought it was OK....more info
  • Unbelievable Memoir - A Must Read
    I could not put Ms. Walls' book down. While at the University of Notre Dame in 1992, I and a group of undergrads spent a week building a house for a poor man in the Appalachian region of West Virginia. The poverty there is eye-opening - unlike the urban poor. It was more striking to me simply because people are out in the hills with very little help from the community (no soup kitchens or shelters). There were washing machines and toilets on front lawns, dirty roads in between hilly towns, children who don't know where Rhode Island is or that it is a state. This book brought that scene back to life for me. I still marvel at what I saw back then and this book reminded me of it.
    Jeannette's story was amazing - such a success story for this woman to have come from extreme poverty and to get out of it. I wonder how Jeanette Walls is doing today. Psychologically, has she dealt with this? Is she getting counseling? Not that I need to know but it's amazing to me that she can be at peace. I cried out of pride for her when she chose to go to college, to make a better life for herself. I am so proud of Jeannette and how far she has come. An absolutely amazing read!
    ...more info
  • I loved this book!
    Great book, very entertaining, it reminded me of the feeling you got from reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Angela's Ashes....more info
  • I enjoyed this memoir. I don't know how parents can have their kids live like that though.
    This the story of Jeanette Walls. Her parents did not take very good care of her and her three siblings. Her father, Rex, was more focused on getting drunk than having a stable good job and her mother just wanted to be an artist. Once you become a parent I believe you should put your children's best interests before your own. I am glad that her and her siblings moved to New York City, however I don't think I would keep in contact with my parents after how they treated them and didn't take care of them. I thought it was a good memoir. There are always debates on what is true in memoirs and what is not. Whether the whole book is true or not The Glass Castle is a symbol for hope and the better things in life....more info