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Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Samantha Zakrzewski, Staff Writer, reader of books

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Have you ever met someone who’s first childhood memory is burning themselves from trying to cook hot dogs? The Glass Castle chronicles is about the life of Jeannette Walls and her dysfunctional family. For starters, Jeannette’s alcoholic father, Rex, couldn’t hold a job, while her art fanatic mother, Rose Mary,  sat home painting all day. They weren’t exactly your typical parents. Most parents excite their kids with the idea of Santa Claus being real. However, Rex and Rose Mary flat out told their kids that Santa Claus was not real. So much for a happy childhood.

Jeannette and her siblings had to fend for themselves a lot during their childhood. Jeannette and her younger brother, Brian, would scavenge through the streets looking for old cans and bottles to sell. At school, if there was no food in the house Brian and Jeannette would pick through the garbage, finding edible food that kids threw away. A lot of their childhood was spent starving. When Rex did bring home food, it was usually gone within a few days and everyone would go back to being hungry again. It really angered me how Rose Mary had a college degree in teaching, and yet, she never worked. She would rather have her kids starve than get a job. And the one time that she actually did work, her kids had to drag her out of bed and help her with grading classwork.

Jeannette’s family is always on the move, running from debt collectors.  When it was time to leave yet another house in the middle of the night, the kids were usually told to bring only one or two things with them. This was to ensure that the car was not weighed down by too much, and so that there would be room for Rose Mary’s paintings, which she insisted that she would sell (Spoiler alert- she never sold a single piece).

Rex claimed that one day he would build their family a glass castle, hence the title of the book. He had blueprints for it and knew exactly how he would build it. All he needed was money. Rex would create inventions, hoping to make money. Unfortunately, his alcoholism got in the way and he was never able to sell an invention.

Personally, I felt that the book was well written. Jeannette Walls has a gift to make her readers feel as if they were actually there with her. She was very vivid in her descriptions of places and people. Every time the family moved to a new house, she meticulously described it. Jeannette is also very good at playing with your emotions. She could make you go back and forth between hating and loving a character. Unlike other memoirs, Jeannette tells her life story as if it were a fiction piece. At times, I forgot that this was based off of the author’s life. Despite her parents’ irresponsible behavior, Jeannette shows the reader that she still loves them. Throughout most of the book she tries to see the best in them. Overall, I felt that The Glass Castle was a great, and easy read that I would recommend.

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