A few months ago a friend of mine told me to read The Glass Castle. I put it on my “to read” list but there were so many books ahead of it that I wasn’t sure I would get to it. Then this past month The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was picked for my monthly book club. I wasn’t really sure what the book was about, but a fellow teacher let me borrow her copy and told me it was so good that she finished it in a week. I was intrigued, as this teacher is not a big reader.
The book is a memoir about Jeannette Walls’ life growing up. She was one of four children born to Rex and Rose Mary Walls. Rex and Rose Mary were borderline geniuses who quickly got bored with whatever job they had and moved from place to place looking for work and adventure.
Rex was a brilliant man who taught his children about physics, geology, architecture, and who dreamed of building The Glass Castle. Unfortunately Rex was drunk most of the times and spent most of the family’s money on booze and pipe dreams. Rose Mary was a teacher by trade but painting was her true passion. Instead of cooking, cleaning, or providing for her family she spent much of her time making paintings.
When the children were young Rex and Rose Mary took them from place to place in the West, from one adventure to the next. The children rarely attended school and enjoyed the freedom of moving from place to place. Things change when the family runs out of money and moves to a poor mining town in West Virginia to be closer to Rex’s parents. Things go from bad to worse as neither parent can hold down a job and the Walls are the poorest family in town.
The children ban together to fend for themselves. Collecting cans in order to get a hot meal, finding wood to mend the holes in the roof, and even taking odd jobs to save money in order to get out of the town and start a better life for themselves. Against all odds these intelligent four children manage to get out, one by one, and move to New York where things get better for all of them but one.
This store is full of funny stories, heartwarming moments, and the love of a dysfunctional family. It is also full of moments when the children act more like adults then their parents do. There are moments in the book where I would have liked to have choked Rex and Rose Mary and asked them to look at what they were doing to their children. There were other times that I wondered in awe at what these children, who came from nothing, had accomplished.
The Glass Castle is an amazing story that I would recommend to anyone. It kept me engaged until the very end. In fact, it kept me engaged long after I finished the last page and proceeded to look up more information on the Walls’ family for weeks after.
I give this book 5 out of 5 starts.