Thursday, April 30, 2009

THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls

My book club chose THE GLASS CASTLE for our May selection. When I picked up this memoir by Jeannette Walls, I was a little worried. It seemed like it would be almost unbearably bleak. And, in some ways, it was.

Walls tells the story of her unconventional childhood where her family lived in poverty moving from one place to the next and never putting down any roots. The state of neglect that Walls and her siblings lived in is shocking and they faced various types of abuse at the hands of adults around them. The most surprising thing about the book, however, is Walls' undying affection for her parents. Their eccentricities and neglect of their children are told matter-of-factly without Walls falling into a "victim" mentality. Walls often makes her childhood seem more like an adventure that made her stronger rather than something to be overcome or ashamed of. She does not sugarcoat her parents' self-absorption or their near-criminal lack of care for their children. However, she managed to imbue them with a dose of humanity as well.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. The story is a quick read that is hard to put down. Walls demonstrates that our feelings for our family are not always black and white. I was greatly disturbed by the things that happened to these children and often frustrated at Walls' diplomatic depiction of her parents. However, the book is a very interesting look into the lives of an eccentric pair of people who chose to live their lives in very unconventional ways even at the expense of their children.

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