The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeanette Walls describing her turbulent childhood years, and how she and her siblings survived poverty and neglect against all odds. Her father was an alcoholic who she longed to trust, but who let her down time and time again. Her mother was an artist with her head in the clouds, with little grip on the realities of hunger and child safety. The Walls family lived a “nomadic” lifestyle, often voluntarily living without a roof over their heads. Despite the many struggles of their childhood, the Walls children became successful in life. They succeed in spite of their parents.
The tone of the novel is set when within the first chapter, Jeannette burns herself cooking food over an open flame (at age three) and her father subsequently breaks her out of a hospital. What follows are the many, some humorous, several depressing, exploits of Jeanette’s father Rex Walls. One of the main focuses of the memoir is Jeannette’s relationship with Rex, who cares for her deeply, but who can’t give up alcohol for his children. An ongoing question that the reader must ask is whether this love is genuine, and whether his stated care for Jeanette justifies his many flaws. Rex always promised his children that he would build them a house made entirely of glass- a glass castle. It is up to the reader to interpret whether this castle was ever intended to be built.
This book truly is a must-read. It is not simply a novel; it is a recording of real life. It is full of danger and emotion, and brimming with moments that will make you laugh, and (quite often) cry. If you are looking for a page turner of a success story, look no further.