The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was recommend to me years ago by a friend, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to read it. Jeannette Walls's childhood is so bizarre to me that I actually had to double check that this was a memoir and not a work of fiction.
Jeannette's parents are beyond free-spirited, which is both awesome and terrifying. Her father, an alcoholic, is chronically unemployed, and her mother is completely not interested in raising her children. Her father is brilliant, but because of his drinking and his general hatred of anything organized (unions, the government), can't hold a steady job and the family moves around a lot, eventually settling in a mining town in West Virginia. Her mother fancies herself an artist (but refuses to get glasses because she likes the way she sees the world) is a more confusing character...she has a teaching degree, and at times is gainfully employed, but she keeps saying that she's tired of taking care of everyone else and just wants to focus on herself and her art (which drives me bananas because she has four kids to feed).
Jeannette's parents are a mixed bag. I loved that one Christmas, when there was no money for presents, Rex (the father) lets each of his children pick out a star and he gives it to them...I thought that was very creative. On the other hand, there might have been money for presents if either parent kept a job.
Jeannette and her siblings learn to take care of themselves and each other and become remarkably well-adjusted people.
My one complaint about the story is the lack of dates...I had a hard time gauging how old the children were, and how to place it in context of how old I was at the same point in time.
Jeannette manages to tell her story in a way that empathizes with the plights of her parents and doesn't subject itself to whining and undo self-reflection...she never says, if only my parents had done this or we had that growing up things would be better.
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