Book Review: The Glass Castle: A Memoir

In the book “Glass Castle: A Memoir” by Jeannette Walls, the author could easily have sunk into that kind of work as a writer, who endured hardships you have to read about to believe (how about falling from a rolling boxcar only to have to wait until her parents realized she wasn’t with them and they had to retrace their route to find her). Her description of the treatment for rock removal from one’s face is fascinating if more than a bit upsetting. It could have become the stuff of family legend, but it didn’t as Jeannette retains not only a high level of love and loyalty to her parents but also to her brother and sisters, whom she eventually helped to escape the traveling roadshow known as the Walls family.

For example, her father had problems. The first had to do with alcohol. He liked liquor and did other things that no child should see, such as throwing a kitten out the window when the bill collectors appear unexpectedly and the family makes a hasty getaway.

It’s not the kind of life that the children wanted, quite obviously. For example, their mother announced that she was an “excitement addict”, as she couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family.

Eventually, as luck and money would have it, they had to move back to the backwater West Virginia town where Jeannette Walls family had its roots and she was subjected to things, kids shouldn’t have to be subject to.

It took some time, but, one by one, the Walls kids made good on their escape to New York, where Jeannette met and married a writer.

Things grew more complicated when Mom and Dad found where their kids lived and followed them to New York City.

Somehow, a peace, of a sort, developed, and the family moved on.

The key to this is Jeannette Walls’ ability to write not only what she remembers, but what happened, uncolored by childhood affectations. This could easily have turned into a monochromatic yarn about how bad her mother and father were, but Walls’ ability as a writer kept the story about as objective as one can be in an autobiography, but also multihued.

It could easily have turned into a “Snow White” or a “Beauty and the Beast” type of fantasy, but it didn’t. Jeannette kept it down to earth which makes it all the more endearing if that can be applied to the situation she and her siblings faced.

Through it all, at least the brother and sisters stayed true to each other and Jeannette wrote it that way. This is an excellent piece of work that must have taken a great deal out of the writer as she worked her way through it.

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