Saturday, March 24, 2012

Glass Castles

I haven't written any book reviews lately, because I've been waiting for that "ohmygoshyouhavetoreadthisone" to come along.  Found it. And for the uppity-up readers, I know I'm behind the eight ball. (When I brought it up at lunch and library as a possibility, everyone looked at me like, "Oh yeah. Read that one eons ago.")

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls might make a few of you say, "Maybe my childhood wasn't so bad after all." Then again, maybe not. I'm sure there are more horrific childhoods fettered with tragic events. But Walls certainly had some stories to tell. And she does it so well.  She certainly has fodder–an alcoholic (and revered) father who used his genius to gamble, an artistic and unstable mother whom felt indelibly trapped by maternal responsibilities and four brilliant children who happened to be as tough as nails. And boy did they understand self-reliance. At one point in the book, Jeannette's father puts her at risk of being raped by a no-good barfly. He needs her to help win money in a pool scam. Luckily, she isn't harmed, but her father shrugs off the incident. He likens it to a "sink or swim" analogy. Like I said, tough as nails.

While the family was strangely dysfunctional, I was rooting for The Walls–every single one of them. Obviously, I didn't agree with their parenting techniques. Jeannette's mother could hardly stand to utilize her teaching certificate in order to provide food for her kids. She knew in her heart she was really an artist. So they starved instead. And Jeannette's father? Well, you'll have to read the book. He was really smart though. I loved reading about his ideas and what he knew. Catching up on chaos theory...really? (Perhaps there is some metaphor in that?) Mme Walls wrote about the family's history and their nuances so that you always understood the bond and the love that existed amidst the clan.

By the end of the memoir, we see how the accomplished writer has come to be who she is–and how she has come to terms with her past and the present. The last scene ends on Thanksgiving with her family. Her mother gives a fitting toast, saluting Jeannette's father, who is now deceased, about life with him never being boring. It's lovely. Just as is the book.

I didn't grow up with much money. We drove clunky cars. Lived in an extremely modest house. I always thought to myself, "I'm going to have a mansion someday." Perhaps a glass castle! As I read this book about the Walls' childhoods, I realized something. I had the glass castle. And truly, I still do.

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