The Glass Castle

Friday, December 2, 2016

Another book club down, another dysfunctional family memoir completed. This month me and the ladies read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. When we met we did a whole lot of talking about snow removal, cars disappearing under snow drifts, neighborhood gossip and tales of sorrow that have occurred recently. We also ate some yummy food, because for some reason everyone else manages to actually fix real food items for book club instead of my pretzels and m&ms (that cake frosting was epic!!!). Eventually we got around to talking about this book...and we all agreed it was a good one.

I seem to be a little late in reading The Glass Castle. I know it was a big thing a few years back (it was published in 2005)...and I heard amazing things about it before picking it up. More than a few people have said they were shocked this was a memoir because it's so messed up you want to believe it's fiction.

Jeannette Walls memoir starts with her being embarrassed seeing her mother digging through a dumpster while she's travelling to a glitzy party in a taxi. How can she live on Park Avenue when her parents live on the street? From there we go back in time to her first memories of being on fire after cooking hot dogs on the stove at age 3. AGE 3!!! Let that sink in a little bit for a minute. The book just gets crazier and crazier after that.

Jeannette's early childhood is impressively messed up. Her father is a drunken dreamer...skedaddling from place to place, constantly dreaming up some new scheme that will make him rich. Her mother actually comes from money, but is bohemian to the extreme. The kids in this family are starved, dirty, molested, beat up, neglected...you name it, they've experienced it.

What makes the story so impressive is how most of the children managed to get out of squalor and become very successful and productive members of society at such an early age. They, one after another, leave a ramshackled existence in a mining town in the Appalachians for New York City...find jobs easily, get into colleges and police training programs, and live regular lives. Their parents follow and live on the street...even when there are other options available. It is all very odd.

This is a good and impressive book. But I have noticed recently when reading this memoir and All The Pretty Things that they are written in a very non-emotional manner...almost matter-of-fact. I don't know if the authors do it to help themselves from the feelings brought up when writing them? But surely as an adult who knows better, you have to feel some emotions when telling how you're starving and find your mom eating a Hershey's Chocolate Bar. I mean, you're eating food from the school bathroom trash can...you have to feel some anger when thinking on it now? Or when they are punished by their parents for fighting back when they find their little brother being molested by Grandma. I just feel like sometimes the tone takes me out of it a bit, if that makes any sense.
But really, this book is a must read...and really puts to shame any of the other dysfunctional family books I've read recently. Jeannette Walls wins the award for most f**ked up childhood. If anyone knows of a memoir even worse, please let me know so I can read it ASAP. It was a great book club selection, and if we weren't so distracted by the immense amount of excitement and drama in our personal lives at the moment, the discussion could've gone on for ages. There was a whole lot of "oh my gosh, what about when she fell out of the car and it took them ages to come back for her!!!" and "or when the boy started shooting at them through the window, and they fired the pistol back...and then the parents blamed them and made them leave town!!!" It really is one of those kind-of books.

So if, like me, you haven't picked this one up yet...I highly recommend you do. It's worth the read. If nothing else it should make you feel better about your own childhood.

Let me know what you think about dysfunctional family memoirs in the comments here or over on my Facebook Page. I can't wait to hear if any of you know of a memoir to top this one!!!

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