The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

It is my guess that every reader of this book will have a strong emotional reaction to it.  This award-winning book made me so angry and sad, that I almost abandoned it a number of times.  It is the true story of a childhood written by journalist Jeannette Walls.  She and her two sisters and brother were raised by unique parents who Walls portrays realistically, but at the same time sympathetically.  Her father was an eccentric, brilliant, and alcoholic man, who couldn’t hold down a job, but whose charisma was so strong his children and wife were always his defenders.   In contrast, Wall’s mother was an artistic, free-spirit  who viewed the responsibility of a family as an inconvenience she refused to allow to interrupt her life.  When the children were very young, the family lived a nomadic lifestyle, travelling through the Southwest, usually living in the poor section of town when they settled for brief periods of time.  Eventually, they were forced to moved to the small coal town Rex Walls has left as soon as he was grown, living in a ramshackle structure that could hardly be called a house.  The four children had no indoor plumbing, no food most of the time, and little clothing, despite the freezing winters.  Even though the kids lived through poverty, hunger, and constant jokes and bullying from the other students at school, Walls never judges her parents, telling her story in a straight-forward, non-judgmental manner.  In fact, it is clear that all the children continue to love their parents, in spite of the neglectful, even abusive in my opinion, way they were raised.

For me this book was so difficult because my family has always viewed children as treasures, to be cherished and given as many enriching and positive experiences as we can afford.  To see children so completely neglected was hard for me to read, and impossible for me to comprehend.

I recommend this title to students who want to read about how strong and forgiving the human spirit can be.  It is the perfect choice for readers who loved  A Child Called It or  White Oleander.

Here is a short video interview with Walls you can look at when you’re not at school.

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