Jeanette Walls "Glass Castle"

the book that reminded me about unconditional love


Okay so I’m about a decade too late to review this book, but hey, it was on the New York Times Best Seller List for 261 weeks back then so I knew I was missing something good. Then, the movie came out this past summer and when my friend suggested reading it for book club last month, since somehow none of us had read it…I was all in.

And boy, was I in. I started The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls one night in bed last week at 9 pm. At 2 am, I had finished the whole damn thing. All 288 pages. There are very few things that keep me up when I know I have to be up with my son at 5:30 am every day….and there I was, turning page after page. Heart open wide from Jeanette Walls’ poignant memoir.

The thing is, I’m not a nonfiction memoir girl. I like reading literary fiction…writing to me is an art and I always thought memoirs sometimes get too caught up in the facts of events…rather than the dreamy way a fiction book can take you places.

But Jeannette Walls’ story definitely takes you places to put it lightly.

Here’s the opening line of chapter 1:

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.”

I know- it had me hooked too.

Her story is one of extreme poverty and even extreme neglect. I kept thinking how unbelievable her journey is.

Walls had parents who clearly loved her and her siblings, but did not know how to provide for their family. Jeannette is the middle child, with an older sister, Lori, a younger brother, Brian, and a baby sister, Maureen. Jeannette and her siblings became true fighters (and essentially survivors) as their parents dragged them from “homes” of dilapidated shacks, sometimes living with relatives, sometimes just squatting wherever they could find shelter to even their broken down cars. They were always escaping the law or debt or trying to find work that never really lasted in small desert towns of Arizona all the way to rural West Virginia.

It’s really Walls’ voice that got to me. She is humorous, candid and yet hopeful. Each adventure had me on a roller coaster of emotions. I was laughing at the thrill of some, heartbroken at the disappointment of others. I hated her parents at so many parts yet it was Walls who reminded me of the beauty of family bondage and surprised me fully at the outcome of her unconditional love towards her mother and father.

I was reminded, in my own world, of the unyielding nature of this love. The power of forgiveness, acceptance and even the strength to believe in your own dreams against all odds.

If you saw the movie in the theater or just rented it (it hit DVD and Netflix a few weeks ago- we are renting it as our book club meeting on this book soon!) and you are wondering if you should read the book…I say do it- you won’t want to put it down.

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