What to say about this book…. what to say…. I actually finished reading it several weeks ago… but I just couldn’t write a review; I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t even 100% sure I liked the book. I must have since I stayed up until the wee hours finishing it, and I only do that for books that have my attention (I really love sleeping, it could be a hobby). While it did have my attention – the book left me sad and irritated.
The Glass Castle is a memoir about Jeannette Walls’ childhood and even a little bit of her adulthood. Ms. Walls and her siblings were raised by eccentric parents, and eccentric is putting it mildly. They moved around a lot, their parents didn’t provide for them or even make sure they always had food. The thing is, it wasn’t just that they didn’t always have food, it was that their parents didn’t seem to care and had justifications for all of their actions.
The first part of the book was heart-wrenching for me, because Ms. Walls, like all children, adored her parents and assumed they were right. She was young and vulnerable and trusting. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book, scoop her up, and tell her that she deserved so much more.
As she gets older, she thankfully realizes this and is able to start asserting herself and fighting for her rights. I won’t say more than that because you should just read it… or not read it if you have a rule against books that make you sad (I have this rule for movies, but not books).
One of the reasons I gave myself space before writing this review was because as atrocious as Ms. Wells’ parents were, there was some wisdom in their craziness. Some of the creativity and individuality that they inspired weren’t without merit. Her parents were clearly very intelligent people despite their other issues. I needed space so I could let go of that frustration and acknowledge it.
There is a passage early in the book about a Joshua tree that I really loved, and upon reflection it does a great job of symbolizing Ms. Walls’ life. You’ll notice that the insight comes from her mom, who like all of us – wasn’t all good or all bad. So I will leave you with this:
One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight.
Mom frowned at me. “You’d be destroying what makes it special,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”