Monday, June 14, 2010

Book Review: The Glass Castle

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

"I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster. . ."

So begins the story of Jeanette Walls dysfunctional yet heart warming tale of how she grew up. As a parent, I was immediately drawn into this book and could barely put it down. Yet, put it down I did as sometimes the revulsion of what the author and her siblings went through as they grew up impacted me. The story itself is fantastic and heart wrenching. Her parents are both the heroes and the villains at the same time and the simple way she tells their story is both touching and macabre. It is a wonderful piece of biographical storytelling that almost made me cry, laugh, and shiver . . . all within a few pages.

I was struck first of all at how resilient children are - that they can survive so much. At the same time I thought about our "helicopter" overprotective parents and how children are actually so much tougher then we imagine. We are so good at blowing up a few stories of misfortune and then try to protect our children from everything, and in the process stop them from developing the kind of character that can truly make them as independent as we hope they will someday be. I want to honor my children by letting them make mistakes, letting them risk themselves, etc.

Lastly, this book me as it reminded me of a poor family who moved into the area where I lived and who came on my bus when I was young. Although I did not subject them to the torture and daily derision they received from other people on the bus, I nevertheless judged them in my heart. How I wish I had now treated them differently, accepting them and not judging them. I had pushed these thoughts aside but the Glass Castle brought them back as my understanding of the poor changed. If you haven't read this book, I encourage you to. It will challenge your thoughts on a lot of things; homelessness, abuse, mental illness, parenting, and success. I rate it 4.8 ninja stars out of 5.


Marc Vandersluys said...

I've been wondering about this book. After reading "A Life in the Bush: Lessons from my Father" by Roy MacGreggor, I've become interested in the biographies of "ordinary" people (as opposed to celebrities). I've had the Glass Castle in my hands a couple of times, but it always came off as a bit contrived (after reading the first paragraph or so). Maybe I'll have to give it a chance.

Moxymama said...

I read this book about a year ago and loved it for many of the reasons you mentioned. It was really difficult at times to read, imagining children having to go through what they went through. But you are right....children are resiliant and amazing!