Friday, July 24, 2009


I lost my childhood home but Jeannette Walls never had one. She lived in cars, on the street, in tents, in shacks. This is an astonishing story of a family and the children who survived their often insane, yet insanely creative and brilliant parents. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Scribner, 2005).

If you've read it, tell me your thoughts. Did you want to strangle the mother? the father? or embrace them?


  1. Jennifer JeffersonJuly 24, 2009 at 10:16 AM

    Someone gave me that book a couple years ago but I haven't read it yet. I don't know why--I love memoirs and read two recently: Kiss by Kathryn Harrison, and Mary Karr's The Liar's Club. The Glass Castle will be next--I trust your recommendations.

    Anyway, speaking of memoirs--based on your last post and other things I've read that you've written, you should be writing one. You have a magical way of taking what is personal and making it universal.

  2. Jennifer,
    When I read this book, I didn't think it was real. Every other incident in her childhood was crazy crazy, and yet it is told with sanity. I'd love to know what you think of it when you read it. I've not yet read the two books you've mentioned and will put them on my list.

    As for memoirs--thanks for your encouragement. I'm thinking about my proposal again. Maybe it's time to pull it out.


  3. I loved this book and was amazed at the resilience of Jeannette Walls -- not to mention her forgiveness and acceptance of her parents. It's been a while since I read the book, but I recall that she seemed to focus on the perfect details to tell her story concisely, and that the story always moved forward at a good pace.

    Not only did she not have the stability of a home in the physical sense, she didn't have a home in the emotional sense. If I remember correctly, it was her writing that saved her and pulled her out of extreme poverty since her writing talent enabled her to get scholarships and an education, and from there she was able to make a living as a journalist. She is definitely a survivor, and she seemed to be able to tell the story at the right distance from the past. She tells it with compassion, not anger.

  4. Billie,
    Glad you could finally get on!

    To everyone else who may have tried to leave comments this past week and whose comments, like Billie's, seemed to have disappeared into thin air--do try again soon. I made an adjustment and it helped Billie post. Hopefully, it will work for you too.

  5. I was interested in this post because it’s not often I disagree or get to play devil’s advocate but I had a strong reaction to this book when I read it and much to my shock, here it is: I felt it could have been so much more…so much so that I was actually pissed by what I considered terrible editing.

    This was loaned to me by a friend and I grabbed it to read on the train to New York. I had no idea what it was about nor did I read the back cover or anything about the author – when I took it with me to NY it was because it was the only book in the house I hadn’t read and as I said, a friend had just given it to me with a strong recommendation.

    So after I’m a couple of chapters in, I start thinking: This book does not seem like a novel; it’s more like a memoir, and I really do not like the style of the narration…it feels detached, like it’s a newspaper article. It was then I checked the book jacket and could not believe I nailed it – not only was it a memoir, but the writer was a journalist.

    Missing in this book was raw emotion or feeling. This narrator was no one I particularly wanted to spend time with. She didn’t make me feel sympathetic…and under the circumstances, I should have wanted to smother her with affection.

    The end was rushed – we had to wade through chapter after chapter of the same old, same old…then suddenly she’s married, divorced, and married again? After such a traumatic childhood, wouldn’t you have wanted to know about her capacity to love?

    The narrator’s voice was a dull monotone to me. And yet I will say she was fantastic about writing detail. Yes, I was in that home in Arizona; I was in that metal tub; I winced when the cat was…never mind. But again, that’s all this was…a series of well-writen descriptive events without any characters to really love or even any sparkling dialogue.

    Just my two cents and probably the first time I’ve had the guts to disagree with anyone but I was really pissed after I read this book. I wished I were her editor – I would have had her write this so differently and with such a better ending.

    So no one else feels this way at all?

  6. Robin,
    Whew! My eyes popped when I read what you thought about this book. I did feel enraged, but not about the book in general; I was furious with the mother. I thought she was the most destructive force ever. I don't want to spoil the reading for those who haven't read this, but I blame much of what happened to the family on the mother. Behind it all, there is terrible sadness. How does a child justify what she had to live with? and Saw? Even as an adult, how can the narrator make ammends? I suppose that is called maturity or transformation or enlightment.

    Thanks for venting!


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