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The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls (excerpt)

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls (excerpt)

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4.15

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Published by Simon and Schuster
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

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Publish date: Jan 9, 2006
Added to Scribd: Mar 11, 2012
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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02/11/2014

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Praise for
The Glass Castle 
The autobiographer is faced with the daunting challenge of...attempt-ing to understand,forgive and even love the witch....Readers will mar-vel at the intelligence and resilience ofthe Walls kids.—Francine Prose,
The New York Times Book Review 
A pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps,thoroughly American story.
Kirkus Reviews
“Charles Dickens has nothing on Jeannette Walls,author of 
The GlassCastle,
the unflinching story about her grueling,nomadic childhood.Dickens’scenes ofpoverty and hardship are no more audacious and nomore provocative than those in the pages ofthis stunning memoir.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An excellent book....Walls has a fantastic storytelling knack.
Publishers Weekly 
The Glass Castle
will at times exhaust you,occasionally fill you with fury,and finally leave you in slack-jawed wonderment.
 National Review Online
“Jeannette Walls has decided to tell all,and the result is this rivetingmemoir.”
Glamour 
“You’ll root for the Walls family.”
 Newsweek
The Glass Castle
is the kind ofstory that keeps you awake long after therest ofthe house has fallen asleep.
Vogue
 
 Te Glass Castle
 A Memoir
 Jeannette Walls
 Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn non-conormity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary  Walls had our children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, mov-ing among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was acharismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagi-nation, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embracelie earlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand theresponsibility o providing or her amily, called hersel an “excitement ad-dict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in teen minutes had noappeal when she could make a painting that might last orever.Later, when the money ran out, or the romance o the wandering lie aded,the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and theamily -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. Hestole the grocery money and disappeared or days. As the dysunction o the amily escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to end orthemselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betray-als and, nally, ound the resources and will to leave home. What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had theguts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes herparents with such deep aection and generosity. Hers is a story o triumphagainst all odds, but also a tender, moving tale o unconditional love in aamily that despite its proound faws gave her the ery determination tocarve out a successul lie on her own terms.For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her ownstory. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York andLong Island and is married to the writer John aylor.

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kristysp reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I really enjoyed this book; read it super fast. I didn't pay much attention to the writing style. I was just completely pulled into the story of her family. I appreciated the straight forward style and I thought it was edited very well--very little whining and excess prose.
Her parents made me so mad, though. I kept getting distracted by my anger at them. I wonder what it says about me that I lacked even a drop of pity for them. Their kids, on the other hand, were truly amazing and resilient creatures that I rooted for the entire time.
espref reviewed this
Rated 4/5
Wonderful autobiography of woman who grows up under extraordinary circumstances. Her mother was narcissistic in a clinical sense. It's amazing to realize she survived all that she describes.
bookishjojo reviewed this
Rated 1/5
I know I'm in the minority here but I just didn't latch onto this book the way many others have.
ldvoorberg reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I think it's a 3.5 stars. I enjoyed reading it, but I wasn't enthralled or totally captivated.

I felt the emotions most people probably did reading it -- loved the kids' sense of adventure, acceptance, and family in the first half of the book. Hated the Dad and Mom in the later part for their lack of responsibility and for the cycles they fell in.

What I find really interesting is how factual most of the story is relayed. This is what happened. This is the way it was. The author conveys her emotions from that time, but does not seem to have any current emotions in her memories. She has removed herself. Therapy?

A few additional thoughts: the Walls kids were adept at overcoming their circumstances and doing their best to appear normal despite the poverty at home -- a reminder that we don't always know the backgrounds of those around us, and we should not be quick to judge poverty, either.
Second, I find it interesting how stereotypical the parents come across, particularly when they are street people in New York. The mother especially. Finally, the summer when the author is in charge of the money but can't say no to her father is very successful in stopping any judgements from the reader along the vein of "I would have said no". It does not say "don't judge" but it removes the opportunity. Neat.

Oh, and I'm very grateful for my own cushy upbringing, though I'm probably not as tenacious as those kids. Which reminds me -- they seemed to get on very easily in NewYork City. I wonder if that's true, or if, for them, after their past it just felt much easier.
jillkb reviewed this
Rated 5/5
An amazing memoir about a girl who grew up in an unconventional, often dysfunctional and sometimes absolutely abusive and neglectful family -- but who is able to look back at it with love, wonder, and recognition from what she gained from her upbringing. Both inspiring and disturbing -- Jeannette and her siblings should have been taken away from their parents for their own protection, yet her parents also gave her love, intellectual challenge, self-reliance, and a determination to succeed. It makes me wonder -- at what point does genius and a refusal to follow conventional rules go too far?
john_pappas_35 reviewed this
Rated 4/5

Stark, unadorned retelling with surprisingly very little judgment towards the events of her early life, Jeanette Walls crafts a fairy-tale memoir as viewed, in reverse, from a cracked and dirty mirror. A reflection on the self-affirming past that we tell ourselves existed when we were really just gifting Venus.

A valid point from the NYT's review by Francine Prose "At times, the litany of gothic misfortune recalls Harry Crews's classic memoir, ''A Childhood.'' The two books have striking similarities; both, for example, feature the horrific scalding of a child. But to think about Crews's book is to become aware of those mysterious but instantly recognizable qualities -- the sensibility, the tonal range, the lyrical intensity and imaginative vision -- that distinguish the artist from the memoirist, qualities that suggest the events themselves aren't quite so interesting as the voice in which they're recounted."
jenj5 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
I've had the hardest time deciding how to rate this book because it is extremely well written in the only style I think could possibly work for what seems like so outlandish a story, but it's a kind of book I'm not a big fan of reading myself. I've decided to sort of average things out because I just can't convince myself to give 5 stars to something I found so hard to get through. I was listening to a children's audio book about a dysfunctional family at the same time I was reading this which combined to make me even angrier at parents who have children without being interested in actually taking care of those children. Throughout Walls' memoir I actually found myself having more sympathy with the dad because he clearly loved his kids even though he was a broken man and couldn't take care of them well while the mother didn't seem to care about anyone but herself. The entire family's response (or lack thereof) to sexual abuse of the children was perhaps the most appalling part of the story but the entire book was really maddening.

COTC Book Club November 2010 selection.
rkreish_1 reviewed this
Rated 2/5
I'm not a huge memoir fan, but this was pretty well written. I just lose interest in lots of memoirs (An Unquiet Mind and The Liars' Club come to mind). I'm also not a huge fan of books that show up on the paperback best seller list for long periods of time because I'd like my book clubs to pick out books from whatever time period because they're great books, not because they're bestsellers and would make good movies. Part of my two book groups run on misery picks!
rincey_1 reviewed this
Rated 4/5
A really quick read that can captivate easily. I think a lot of people have problems with this book because they can't believe it is real, but ignoring whether or not there is any truth to this, this is just an intriguing story.
poingu_1 reviewed this
Rated 3/5
I was impressed most with the disciplined point of view chosen by the author--there is a startling lack of retrospection and most scenes are told in a flat style that makes the effect of the book all the more powerful.

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