In this both heart wrenching and slightly humorous memoir, journalist Jeannette Walls tells the bittersweet story of her rather dysfunctional and poverty stricken upbringing. Walls grows up in a family trailed by the ubiquitous presence of hunger and broken homes. Throughout the memoir she recounts memories of moving from one dilapidated neighborhood to another with her three other siblings, insanely "free sprinted" mother, and incredibly intelligent yet alcoholic father. The author focuses on her unconventional childhood with parents who were too lazy and self-absorbed to obtain decent jobs. Although Walls's childhood gushes with heartbreaking tales of searching through dumpsters for food, she remains as unbitter as possible and instead views her youth in an almost comical light. While most in similar situations observe experiences like these through unforgiving eyes, Walls views her unfortunate experiences through the transparent walls of the "glass castle" and recalls how she develops the strength and determination to succeed. Although her parents put her through very difficult experiences, she manages to optimistically accept her past and create a much better future for herself.
Walls consumes the memoir with depictions of her parent's eccentric parenting styles. Although not a drunk like her father she describes her mother as possessing the "mentality of a four year old" while at the same time being "incredibly advanced intellectually." Despite her intelligence, her mother sits around and watches Jeannette's father squander their money on beer and cigarettes while she tries to develop her "hidden artistic talents." Even with a teaching degree she refuses to get a job until begged to do so by her starving children....
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... so she resolves to overcome her troubled upbringing and turn her life into a success.
Although The Glass Castle proves quite an infuriating read, the author's optimism and naivety make the memoir rather refreshing. Walls faces so many unfortunate circumstances and yet still somehow maintains a positive outlook on life. Many who go through similar situations use their less than underprivileged upbringings as excuses for why they remain unable to acquire adequate jobs or prosperous lives, but Walls avoids this completely. Even though her childhood proves rather rough, she realizes this does not prevent her from obtaining her goals. While her life story serves as no fairy tale, she manages to find her "happily-ever after" through unrelenting faith and determination.
Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle: a Memoir. New York: Scribner, 2006. Print.
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