Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

book 9 of 11 for the Summer Reading Challenge
book 1 of 10 for the Book Awards Reading Challenge II

RATING: 3/5 stars

In The Glass Castle, we meet Jeannette, the second child of an emotionally detached and "creative" mother and an alcoholic dreamer of a father. As they move (or "skeedaddle") from one trailer park or hovel to the next, Jeannette learns quickly that she can't depend on her parents for much of anything besides "sound" advice and a sink or swim education.

Growing up in the Wall family was like no other upbringing I've read about. While Walls tells her story without pity or judgment, which I really appreciated, it's clear that nearly everything in life Jannette ever scraped up for herself was her own doing. In vignette after vignette, she is failed by her parents. It rips your heart to read about their living conditions and interactions with neighbors -to follow along as a father drinks his family into an unfit-for-human-life house and a mother creates her life away. I kept waiting for some amazing role model or person to come into her life to "rescue" her but no one does. With grace and tenacity she plunges into the adult world on her own far too early and the only savior in this story is Jannette herself. She is even able to find moments of beauty from her childhood, before she's old enough to understand what she's missing, and those are lovingly written.

She isn't perfect, of course, and when she does something we would all see as incredibly unwise, she doesn't pretend that we're not right and she never makes excuses for her behavior. The writing is tight and never rambled or lost my attention. It certainly puts my own upbringing into perspective - if you are looking to read a pleasant coming of age story, you'd best look elsewhere. But it is, in a sense, fulfilling - since you know from the start that she makes it out somehow and the journey there is certainly a unique one.


bethany said...

i hope you are done with this one super early! I wanted to read this book with the nook. I checked it out on audio book from the lib.

Corinne said...

Bethany - I am done super early. I am going out of town next week and wanted to make sure I read it :)

Trish said...

I've heard kind of mixed reviews of this one so I'm not sure what to think. Your review does make me curious even though it seems you didn't love it.

bethany said...

I JUST finished this one...LOVED it. So far probably my top read this year....but since I have a hard time remembering much past the last 3 min, who knows if that is really acurate or not!!! hahah!

For me it was 5 from 5. Can I ask you why it got 3 from you?? any specific reasons?I am so glad we read this for the nook :)

I really liked your review!!!

Corinne said...

Bethany - great question. Reading my review and thinking about the book now - it probably deserves four stars. I may even change it. My ratings are usually a gut instinct of how a book left me feeling - and maybe I am sometimes too quick to write my review i.e. I should mull it for a little longer first :)

My gut reaction was this: it was depressing - even though she ended up getting out of her situation, she never fought back or stuck up for herself. I didn't come away from it feeling particularly inspired by her, if that makes sense. I think that just left a bad taste in my mouth :)

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