The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

infobox Book |
name = The Glass Castle

image_caption =
author = Jeannette Walls
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = USA
language =
series =
genre = Memoir
publisher = Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
pub_date = January 2005
media_type = Print ()
pages =
isbn = ISBN
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Glass Castle" is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls

The book opens current day. Living a wonderful life, in the heart of New York, Jeannette Walls is finally stable, and moving towards the top of her career. But is she happy? Now that Jeannette has the luxuries in her life that she has never had before, but only dreamed of, she sits in a restaurant with her homeless mom,

"I was too ashamed, mom. I hid.” Mom pointed her chopsticks at me. “You see?” She said. “Right there. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’re way too easily embarrassed. Your father and I are who we are. Accept it.” “And what am I suppose to tell people about my parents?” “Just tell the truth,” Mom said. “That’s simple enough.” (pg 5)

And as simple as it may sound, Jeannette had grown up living a life of resilience and redemption with a dysfunctional, yet uniquely pulsating family. The memoir follows her from the age of three, with Jeannette’s vivid memory of catching on fire over an unsupervised kitchen stove, past the age of seventeen, when she fled to New York to escape the headache rut that she saw herself falling into. She struggled to keep herself safe, keep her family together, and to keep her siblings nourished. Life has not been easy for Jeannette, but through this powerful memoir, each detail-rich page brings the reader closer and closer to her redemption.

Growing up, her mother was always lost in her own world; her art and focusing on how she felt seemed to be a priority for her life. She had always said that mundane things were a waste of energy, such as cleaning the house and cooking a meal “that would be gone in one afternoon, while a painting could last forever.” Her time was spent alone, sticking up for her absent husband, and giving little attention to her four needy children. Jeannette’s father was an alcoholic. Despite this, Jeannette was closest to her father and she always appeared to be his favorite of the four children. She found herself sticking up for him, and, at times, being the only one who believed in all of his dreams. Her father was a very brilliant man, with visions of making something of himself and giving his family a life of luxury (which included building a great big mansion some day, which he called the Glass Castle).

In order to achieve this dream, Rex Wells, Jeannette’s father, had to make some money. With no steady job, the Wallses were always moving, doing the “Skedaddle,” as Rex put it, leaving in the middle of the night with only the belongings that could fit into the car (and sometimes nothing but the clothes on their backs). Rex would get a job as an electrician or an engineer, or would make money through gambling or odd jobs, but would often get fired, or get so bored that he would quit, saying that the job just didn’t work out. The family would then again do the “skedaddle,” in search for a different shack or hand-me-down home, traveling all over the country; the family traveled from California to Arizona to West Virginia.

When the family did run into some money, through an inheritance from Rose Mary's dead mother or a new job, Rex would end up spending most of it on alcohol or more gambling. This would leave the family desperate for food, causing Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, to take up a job teaching (with the degree she had on the backburner), which never lasted long. Rose Mary was a self-proclaimed “excitement addict,” always seeking an adventure. After a few months at a time teaching, she would get bored, quit, and focus all of her energy and attention towards her paintings. And with Rex disappearing for days at a time, this would force the children to take up odd jobs to make food money to feed themselves. The four Walls children supported and looked out for one another. Jeannette was oftentimes in charge of the finances and oversaw that her siblings were well taken care of.

Growing up, the four children did not have a lot of friends; peers viewed the children as poor, dirty, and unapproachable. The children were ridiculed, made fun of, threatened, and beat up. Living in a house with holes the size of basketballs, rotting floors, no insulation, no electricity and no plumbing, the Wallsed were faced to live a life of poverty and shame. Rex and Rose Mary did not believe in taking handouts, not wanting to be a welfare family or a charity case, so the children did not receive any clothes from church groups, any food stamps to buy food, or any government support to live a healthy life. When Jeannette entered high school, for the first time, she felt like she belonged.

Working for the school newspaper, The Wave, Jeannette felt popular, taking pictures of students in school, going to football games or pep rallies, all to get a good story for the paper. Jeannette knew it was possible to live the life she always wanted. At the age of sixteen, she knew she wanted to move to New York to live with her older sister Lori, who, too, recently felt that she could live her life as long as she could separate herself from her parents, and left West Virginia to escape the poverty rut that Rex and Rose Mary pulled the family into. So, with money saved from working two jobs, Jeannette took the bus and moved to New York. With her parents' blessing for support, Jeannette felt free and yet sad that her life had come down to leaving the one thing that she knew and loved: her family.

As the first few years progressed, Jeannette encouraged her younger brother Brian to join her in New York, as well. It wasn't hard to convince him, as they both agreed he could not go on living in West Virginia with their parents. However, all of their efforts to escape Rose Mary and Rex Walls were in vain when they eventually followed their children to New York. They wished to be closer to their children, and didn't seem to care when they became homeless, then squatters soon after.

In the end, Rex died from his alcoholism and Rose Mary remained homeless. Maureen had moved to California, too dependent on others to lead an independent life on her own in New York. Little else was mentioned of Maureen after she moved. Brian seemed to carry his role as guardian and protector with him, becoming a police officer, and Lori worked freelance.

As for Jeannette, she is currently living in Virginia and is married to a fellow fellow writer, John Taylor. She has just retired from her job as gossip columnist contributor to MSNBC in 2007. She is currently in the process of writing more novels and the Glass Castle is being made into a feature film by Paramount.

To this day, the Glass Castle was never built, and Rose Mary Walls lives in a guest home on Jeanette's property in Virginia.


Book Review and Discussion []
Conversations with Famous Writers: Jeannette Walls [] However, Rex does not live in New York with Rose Mary, because he died of a heart attack.
Q&A ABC Primetime with Jeannette Walls []

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