The Glass Castle: A Memoir is the true story of Jeannette Walls’ life beginning in the 1950’s at the age of three to adulthood. She openly writes of the struggles she and her family suffered during her early years – severe poverty and unbalanced personalities. In the end she is able to overcome and succeed as an adult, an ending not often achieved for children raised in a loving but dysfunctional family environment such as hers. She is truly one of the lucky ones.
The Glass Castle won the 57th Christopher Award in 2006. In addition in won the American Library Association’s Alex Award that same year. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list for 261 weeks.
The book is written in four sections beginning with Section I – A Woman on the Street. Jeannette is an adult and she sees her homeless mother on the street in New York. She writes about how that makes her feel. In Section II – The Desert she flashes back to early childhood. She uses this section to build her characters through childhood experiences. She speaks of incidents through the eyes of a child and you get the feeling that it’s not all that bad. It is a very interesting story, sometimes funny and sometimes sad, and will keep you fully engaged. Section III – Welch is about how her life changed when her family moved to Welch, a small mining town where her father grew up. In this section there is a definite new way of thinking emerging. Jeannette can no longer overlook her parent’s short comings, short comings that are becoming more and more obvious to her as she grows up. Section IV – New York City ends with resolution. Jeannette finds a place in society where she can excel and she seizes the opportunity. Section V – Thanksgiving – The children, now all adults, reunite for a holiday meal with their mother (dad has passed) and reminisce about childhood adventures and the fun they shared.
The overall feeling at the conclusion of her book is that her parents loved her, that they were both very smart, but they could not cope with the rules of society. She was able to overcome all the adversity faced in her childhood and young adult years. It is her strength and determination that makes her story so riveting.
It is no secret how I feel about Jeannette Walls. Her book The Glass Castles is one of my all time favorites. I had the pleasure of meeting her at Writers In The Schools (WITS) in November, 2010 where she was the keynote speaker.
Her story was so compelling. At the time, I was writing my own memoirs and her openness and honesty struck a cord with me. It confirmed for me that writing the truth can set you free. It is purging and I highly recommend it.
Now, to my surprise, I learned that her book is being turned into a movie. Lionsgate has acquired the rights to the book and Jennifer Lawrence is scheduled to play young Walls in the biopic. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. If you haven’t read the book, you better get busy. That’s it for now. I’ve got to skedaddle.