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"The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Wallsa memoir


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#1 vagansmom

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 05:08 AM

Just finished reading this memoir. Ms. Walls is a contributor to MSNBC and has written for USA Today, New York, and Esquire. I am noting this because, unlike a recent memoirist's background, she was already well-known as a professional writer before the publication of her memoir.

It's a remarkable one, so much so that when I finished the book and decided to see what reviewers at Amazon had to say about it (most were glowing), a couple people had questioned the truthfulness of her writing. Fallout from the Frey debacle, of course. But the interesting thing is that Ms. Walls herself responded on Amazon to the charges brought against her by these readers. That itself is very much worth a read, although it gives away parts of the book so I'd advise to not look at it till you've finished the book.

Walls writes her story in a very straightforward way. Her love for her parents despite their actions (had they been caught, their kids would've been taken away from them) comes strongly through. So does her frustration with them, and her embarrassment of them.

She grew up in horrific poverty, self-designed by her parents. They were well-enough educated, mom held a teaching degree, for example. I forget the dad's education, it may have been some college, but when he worked at all, it was often as an engineer, obtained by supplying a fictitious resume. On the first page of the book, the reader discovers that while the author is living in NYC on Park Avenue, both parents are intentionally homeless.

My husband likens her upbringing to that of a Montessori family gone awry. Self-sufficiency way out beyond the flashing warning lights.

For all that at times I wanted to wring her parents' necks, I also fell in love with them. Their mental imbalance is clear, but so is their intelligence and even sometimes their wisdom, especially her mom's, who would remind her daughter at all times to find the good in people, and would explain why this or that horrible person behaved in such a way. As far as I can tell, she was spot on.

I grew up in poverty myself, and as a result had certain somewhat shocking experiences common to kids living in poverty. My childhood was serene by comparison. Although my parents were not crazy like hers, (quite the opposite, they were stable, careful people), I find myself identifying with lots of what she has to say, especially when she mentions an encounter she had with a Barnard professor in a discussion of poverty. From my perspective, Walls' book rings true all the way. It's a primer about the gray areas of life - no patness allowed.

I'm so curious to know, should Walls have or ever will have children, how she'd raise them, what degree of self-sufficiency she'd encourage, what degree of safety she'd require.

#2 dirac

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 10:58 AM

It's a remarkable one, so much so that when I finished the book and decided to see what reviewers at Amazon had to say about it (most were glowing), a couple people had questioned the truthfulness of her writing. Fallout from the Frey debacle, of course. But the interesting thing is that Ms. Walls herself responded on Amazon to the charges brought against her by these readers.


Thank you for the long and detailed review, vagansmom. Apparently quite a few writers respond direct to Amazon -- an indicator of the growing influence of the reviews on the site, I suppose.


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