December 14, 2013

Jeannette Walls – The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Every once in a while there’s a book that, when you finish reading it, makes you reevaluate your life.

The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls, giving first-hand accounts of the Walls family as they traversed the country in junker cars, living the life of nomads.  Throughout Jeannette’s childhood, Rex Walls led his family of 6 from the deserts of Arizona to the mountainsides of West Virginia in attempts to strike it rich with his inventions and schemes. The reader also follows her emotional journey, as childish faith in her father’s empty promises slowly led to the realization that her parents were unwilling to compromise their hopes, dreams, and addictions to provide for their family.  Ultimately, Jeannette realizes that in order to have a future, she will need to separate from her past.

After finishing my reading, I sat in bed trying to think up potential topics for my review.  Should I focus on the dynamics of family, the detriments of ultra-liberal parenting methodologies (parenting based on the golden rule of “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”, to which Jeannette’s sister Lori replied, “If that was true, I’d be Hercules by now”), poverty in modern America, the trickle down effect of psychological damage from parent to child, the American Dream, the importance of hard work and perseverance, overcoming adversity, alcoholism, selfishness, the definition of freedom?  I continued scrolling down the list of potential topics in my head.

In the end, I don’t think it would do potential readers (nor this book) justice to simply focus on a single topic to highlight. Life is a myriad of complex plots woven together through time.  The memories from Jeannette’s life can be picked apart and categorized all day long, but it is the compilation of all the events in The Glass Castle that have made Jeannette Walls the success that she is today. And, most importantly for the reader, Jeannette’s precise writing allows you to vividly experience those memories with her.

I highly recommend this memoir.  The anecdotes are sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but made all the more powerful because they are all true. After hearing Jeannette’s story, you may find yourself inspired.  So, take a walk with Jeannette down memory lane.  You won’t regret it.

By Virgil Wong


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