The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

An eye opening read!  A book not to sit on a shelf but to be passed on as it is meant to be read!  ~ Sheila

aaJeannette 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.

My Thoughts:

The book opened with this sentence: “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.”

Yowsa.  I had to read it again.  It didnt take long to root myself into this read that was the vision of dysfunctional right from the start.  There are many times throughout the book that I wonder why didnt social services step in… why didnt anyone see this?  I wonder now as people who knew this family as this was happening dnt see Jeanette’s book now and wonder the same thing themselves.

The funny thing is that time and again, people did try to act… and Jeanette’s dad will pull up the family and move – and her mother (and I use the term loosely) just thought life was an adventure and didnt really focus to much on anything that had to do with her children.  Sorry- I am trying to stay even here but I really struggled with Jeanette’s mom.

In our Bookies Book Club discussion of this book this past week, we found the book to be so incredible that it had to be non fiction.  If the book were fictitious no one would find it believable -it would be too over the top.

  • Driving a piano through the house
  • cutting maggots off ham to eat
  • taking leftovers out of the schools garbage and eating it in the bathroom stalls so no one knew…

Jeanette Walls book is written well and Jeanette shares her life story in a matter of fact, occasionally humorous tone.  I dont think I could have made my way through it is she would have written it as bitter and angry – it would have been too heavy.

My book club rated this book as a high 4 rating out of 5.

About the Author:aa

One of four siblings, Jeannette Walls was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1960. Her family lived in various southwestern towns before settling in Welch, West Virginia when she was ten. She moved to New York City at age 17 and graduated from Columbia University’s Barnard College with honors in 1984. She went on to become a reporter for New York magazine, Esquire and USA Today. She has appeared regularly on television, including the Today Show, CNN and Prime Time Live and is widely known as a former gossip columnist for

She currently lives in northern Virginia and is married to writer John Taylor. Her memoir, The Glass Castle (2005) was a New York Times bestseller with movie rights optioned by Paramount (but as of October 2009 there is no sign of the movie entering production). Her next book, Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel, was published in October 2009.

This book was purchased by me. I am an Amazon Affiliate and by clicking on the link to the books above, I will receive a small percentage of the sale should you make a purchase.

I would rate this book PG

13 thoughts on “The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

    1. Hi rhapsodyinbooks! I thought that to be amazing… as non fiction we can handle it but as fiction we would shut the book down saying it was too over the top unreal.

  1. My book group and I loved this memoir, too, and you’re right – it would be too outrageous if it were fiction! The author’s attitude and sense of perspective were truly amazing. I don’t know how she ended up so well-adjusted after what she went through as a childhood.


  2. Hi, Sheila! I’m really glad you liked this book. I’ve read it early last year and have been recommending it to my friends. In fact, I think I gave a couple as gifts. So far, all my friends loved it.

  3. Being an avid reader, my sister, Lynette, gave me this book ‘The Glass Castle’, and insisted I read it 1st of the 3 she brought me, then asked me to let her know if it didn’t remind me, of when we lived in Cadiz, Ca. and schooled 13miles away in Amboy. Especially, since it was all during the same time period that you and your family lived out there, and I have to say the desert yrs of your life reminded me alot of my own in ways. I moved to Cadiz, to live w/my mother and step-father, who was the station master in this tiny RR town that consisted of 8 hses, and a RRstation w/an upstairs apt. where Mr.Fink lived. Moving there, when I was 10 yrs. old, from K.C.Mo.(my birthplace & home those 1st 10yrs), my life was altered forever, from the strict Roman Catholic upbring I’d experienced, living w/my Dad, Grandmother and Uncle. I wish I could say it had been a positive change, not to say, it didn’t have it’s adventerous moments, however, I cannot.
    Your story is so brave and admirable, and your strenght is to be applauded. And truly, I understand first hand alchohlism, and the genius and goodness, that is transformed, by this addiction. Thank you, for your amazing story, and your success. God Bless, and I hope we cross paths one day, even though we might have allready…….Regards, Leila.

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