Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Glass Castle

Amanda chose  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls for our July book club.  And I loved it - though it got some mixed reviews.  At least one person wasn't able to even finish it because it bothered her so much.  Which is completely understandable.  It is the story of Jeannette Walls' childhood - growing up with 2 sisters and 1 brother in very unusual and often terrible ways because her parents are extremely selfish and irresponsible people.  Or at least that was our consensus.  Between her mother's selfishness and laziness and her father's drunkenness and inability to hold a job - it is a miracle that she turned out so well!  The book starts when Jeannette is about 3 years old in the west, to avoid paying their debts they move from place to place mostly in the desert, doing the old 'skedaddle' as her dad calls it.  Then when she's in her early teens they settle down in West Virginia -you think the desert is bad, wait till you read about West Virginia!  And finally ending in New York and up to the present.

The narration and flow of the book is so engaging that nearly every time I was consumed with horror at their lives, she would explain something new or tell some story and I found myself laughing out loud.  But be warned, there is a lot of craziness in this book.  The way they have to live because of the faults of their parents is astonishing to me.  And throughout book club we all kept saying, "oh yeah the most terrible thing was," and "I can't believe I forgot to mention this other terrible part," etc, etc, all night.  But despite my constant use of the word terrible - the book is wonderful and amazing and ultimately inspiring, just the situations are terrible.  I am just so impressed by Walls' ability to be so objective about her own life and how she literally rose above it without bitterness and hatred.   I was also personally inspired because I have been feeling particularly poor lately, and let me tell you after reading this there is no way I will ever feel poor again!

But most interesting to me was the contrast of reading this book and The Diary of Anne Frank so close together and having them go through such similar experiences as far as what they ate and how they lived (often in filth, going to the bathroom in buckets, etc), but with the Frank's it was thrust upon them by a tyrant and a war, whereas the Walls lived that way by choice.  At least by the choices of the parents anyway.  Like I said terrible... I just wanted to slap her parents across the face while I was reading this book!

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