The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls

Cover ImageFinished 8-1-10, rating 5/5, memoir, pub. 2005

Mom always said people worried too much about their children.  Suffering when you’re young is good for you, she said.  It immunized your body and your soul, and that was why she ignored us kids when we cried.  Fussing over children who cry only encourages them, she told us.  That’s positive reinforcement for negative behavior.

page 28

I usually start with a recap of the book, but today I’m starting with the fact that I loved this memoir.  I don’t read a lot of memoirs, a few a year at most, but this one has me thinking that I’ve just been reading the wrong ones.  I was completely captivated by the life of Jeannette and her family.  I knew I wanted Jason to read it, but I think I may have ruined it for him because I couldn’t stop from sharing the horrifying, sad, and sometimes inspirational stories in the book.

For those that aren’t familiar Jeannette writes about her childhood traveling from state to state with her parents and three siblings.  She starts by telling her first memory, when she was boiling hotdogs and caught herself on fire – at the age of three.  She spends six weeks in the hospital before her father breaks her out.  So begins the adventure that is her life.  Her charismatic father convinces the kids that the FBI are on their tail so they have to stay on the run.  In reality he is a drunk who cannot hold onto a job or money.  The mother seems harmless enough at first, but only got worse with every story told.  And by the end I was beyond mad at her complete lack of caring.  The children grow up in extreme poverty.

It is the even-handed way that Walls tells her story that makes this book so wonderful.  She is not bitter or pointing fingers.  During her childhood years she and her siblings accepted their life and their parents and it was only later after  a move to West Virginia when things became unbearable that she became frustrated.  I am in such awe of her ability to come out of her situation intact and successful.  I don’t really want to spoil too many details because I think once you start reading it you won’t be able to put it down and at 288 pages it won’t take you long to finish.  Cannot recommend it highly enough.


This is from my personal library and was chosen by Marce, JoJo, Jenners, Molly, Sheral, Debby, Rebecca, Alita, Soft Drink, Melissa, and Angie.  Here’s what they had to say…

“Excellent memoir that is so unbelievable it wouldn’t work if it was fiction.”  Angie

“A fantastic memoir about a tough childhood, but the author refrains from being all ‘woe is me'”  Soft Drink

“I read this last year and LOVED it. I can’t wait for Walls’ 2nd book.”  Rebecca

“Excellent & unforgettable”  Sheral

“The memoir I have read in the fastest sitting. Sucks you right in.”  Molly

“One of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. You won’t easily forget it.”  Jenners

35 thoughts on “The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls

  1. Trisha says:

    I don’t know why I haven’t been able to pick this up and read for the 2+ years it’s been sitting on my shelf. I really need to get to it.

  2. Bumbles says:

    I have yet to find a reader not totally engaged by this book. I knew it would score high marks from you. Terrific quote selection. So hard to narrow them down – before you know it you are tempted to quote the whole damn thing!

    • stacybuckeye says:

      There were so many great passages from the book I could have done a whole post just on quotes. You did a great job choosing this book for me 🙂

  3. Nicole says:

    I read this when it first came out, with my book club. I didn’t really connect with it, but I understood and appreciated it more when I heard the author speak at the National Book Festival in DC last year.

  4. alitareads says:

    I’m so glad you loved it, too! My mom and I both read it 2 1/2-3 years ago, and we still talk about it. It’s a story that stays with you long after you’ve finished the book.

  5. Margot says:

    This seems to be a book enjoyed by so many people. If you say it is a 5/5 I really should pay attention. It’s now on my list of books to find.

  6. softdrink says:

    Oh good, I’m glad you liked it! Mary Karr has a similar tell it like it is without self-pity style. You might consider her books the next time you’re in the mood for a memoir. 😀

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I read The Liar’s Club years ago, but wasn’t as impressed as I was with this one. Thanks for recommending it.

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