February 5, 2013

The Glass Castle

I used to be very anti e-readers. I wanted to feel a book in my hands. I wanted to underline and fold the corners of pages. Reading books electronically just felt wrong. The funny thing is that even though I felt so strongly about reading actual books, I wasn't reading much at all. So I caved. We finally got a Kindle, and later an iPad Mini and now I can't read enough. Throw in the fact that I can borrow ebooks from my library, I have a book list a mile long.

Last week I finished The Glass Castle, and it was one of the best books I have read in a really long time. A coworker recommended it to me a couple of years ago, and I just got around to reading it and I'm so glad I did. I have always enjoyed memoirs, but the story of Jeannette Walls' life is at times just too hard to believe. You wonder how anyone could turn out even halfway normal with the childhood she had.

The description:

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.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

I very highly recommend this book. It's so good my husband is reading it now. That's saying something!

1 comment

  1. Excited to add this to my list! Thanks for the recommendation :)