BOOK REVIEW: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Title: The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
Published:  January 9th, 2006 (first published March 1st, 2005)
Source: purchased eBook

From Goodreads:
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town—and the family—Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

Mrs. Beamer's Review:
I loved this book...loved everything about it.  The above Goodreads blurb does an outstanding job of summarizing this memoir.  The book is addicting...both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.  

Full disclosure...I only read this book because it was mentioned as possible required reading for the 10th grade Honors English class at our school.  Controversy has followed this memoir since its publication - mainly regarding its age-appropriateness for high school students.  I needed to see (read) for myself.  Bottom line...whatever critics of this book believe, in my opinion, the positives WAY WAY WAY outweigh the negatives.  Personally, I can't wait for my own children to read it.  I won't dissect the validity of this book in relation to the course objectives, etc (I'll leave that to the English teachers!).  But I will say this memoir offers countless opportunities for discussion and reflection.  

Jeannette's childhood is one of disbelief.  I often found myself thinking "seriously...how is this lifestyle even possible today?!"  Yet, as riveting as her upbringing was, what hooked me were the relationships between the family members.  Jeannette does an outstanding job of sharing her family with the reader.  I felt like I understood it all...like it all made sense (even when, in theory, it shouldn't).  Read it for yourself.  It's outstanding.


Mrs. Beamer’s Wrap-Up Rating: 0-5 (0=none, 5=lots) click here for more info
Language: 3.5
Violence: 1
Sexual Content: 2.5
Drugs/Alcohol: 3
Recommend for High School Libraries: YES
Comfortable With My Child Reading: high school


Meet the Author:  Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist.  She was born in Phoenix, Arizona.  She graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women's college affiliated with Columbia University.  She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005.  The book is being made into a film by Paramount.

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