I wanted to sit on this book for a while, to ruminate on it, to let the words and stories really steep in my mind. But I decided that wasn’t a very good idea because I at once loved and hated this book. The more I ruminate and gather my thoughts on this book, the more my thoughts will go down the rabbit hole of mental illness and alcoholism that so exemplified Walls’ childhood.
Walls’ writing and storytelling are phenomenal. Her childhood, though, was atrocious. The combination of the two made for an audiobook that I hated to stop listening to but sometimes needed a break from. You see, Walls’ parents were terrible. Her mother snooty despite the lack of food on the table, acceptable clothing on her children and lack of roof over their head. She was selfish, but most of all she was weak. She was too weak to take the kids and leave her no-good, alcoholic husband. She was too weak to stand up to her own issues of selfishness and immaturity. Too weak to keep a job. And let’s not even get into her sympathy for her daughter’s molester.
But as much as I disliked her mother, I definitely hated her father. I hated him for not holding down a job, for not providing for his children, for being a worthless drunk.
In general, not bad advice, but it was said while
teaching Jeannette to swim. Rex’s method?
Throwing her into the center of a deep, dirty pond.
I could go on and on about all the reasons I hate Walls’ parents but I’d rather use this space to point out all the great things about this book.
First and foremost, what I loved about this book was Walls’ ability to tell the story, to paint the picture of her childhood. I found the stories she told–both good and bad–to be very engaging, lively, and easily understood. Her clear, forthright writing really moved the story along. She doesn’t spend time dwelling on the bad parts other than to share what happened.
I loved how the book started and ended with fire, particularly the turbulent area at the tip of the flame. In both instances, the fire symbolizes a rampage that was coming, and specifically Rex Walls. If he’d only been contained, if he hadn’t been allowed to burn free, maybe Jeannette’s life would have been better. Althought the fire at the end was more refined, the flame of the candle burning on the reunited family’s Thanksgiving dinner table, I think it symbolized more turbulence to come in Jeannette’s life, not by something she’s done, but by the return of her sister.
A final high point that I want to metion is that Walls seems to be a remarkable specimen. She doesn’t seem to pity herself or at least didn’t by the time she wrote the book. She’s the shining example of someone who picks herself up by the bootstraps and really becomes somebody. She’s resilient, she’s intelligent, she’s hardworking, she’s inspiring. And, despite negative comments about her looks in the book, she’s beautiful and has great hair!
This book was superbly read by Julia Gibson. Gibson excellently portrayed Walls’ mother’s snobbery. Her pacing and diction were excellent. My one complaint was the voice she used for Walls’ sister Laurie. She made Laurie sound very flat and dumb, neither of which I think describe Laurie based on what Walls actually wrote about her.
Writing 5 out of 5 stars
In The New York Times review, Francine Prose refers to Walls’ writing style as appealingly unadorned. Her writing isn’t overwrought; it isn’t overly emotional or overly sentimental. I found her writing style very inspiring.
Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars
I generally try not to give anything five stars. As the highest rating, it’s generally hard to reach, but I really believe it’s warranted with this book. Her ability to lay out her unappealing childhood in an appealing way is practically unheard of.
Cultural/Personal Impact 4 out of 5 stars
According to the ever reliable Wikipedia, The Glass Castle spent 261 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and it’s been optioned for film by Paramount. (Word is Jennifer Lawrence will star in it. I find this interesting because the book begins when she is three and ends when she’s in her 30s.) This book had a big impact on me. As I mentioned the writing was inspiring, but the story will really stick with me.
Total 4.67 out of 5 stars
Have you read or listened to The Glass Castle? What are your thoughts? Did you, too, hate Walls’ parents?
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