Monday, November 05, 2007

Irresponsible Parents

Title: The Glass Castle: A Memoir
Author: Jeannette Walls
Bookmark: A Kroger coupon for kitty food.

This book alternately made me depressed, astounded, horrified, and blind with rage. It's hard to read a book which makes you feel murderous towards two of the major characters. However, I still couldn't put it down. I didn't read A Million Little Pieces, but this book is so unbelievable that I cannot help but wonder about possible creative liberties, although none were probably taken.

Jeannette Walls was raised by two of the most irresponsible parents I have ever read about. At times living in a shack, car, or just plain homeless, the Walls family moves around the country because of the mother's wanderlust and the father's fear that the government is after him (as well as his tendency to get the family into sticky situations).

Jeannette's father, Rex Walls, was a brilliant man who occasionally worked as an electrician when he wasn't falling down drunk, destroying their various living quarters, and practically killing their mother. It's hard to like a guy who nearly pimps out his 13 year old daughter (he knew she could fend off the guy, or so he claimed after), steals the money his children have worked desperately to raise in order to free themselves from their crazy parents, and promises the sky, or in this case a glass castle, while delivering almost nothing. Of course, no one person is completely evil, and when Jeannette nearly drops out of college because she is $1,000 short, he touchingly comes up with the money, albeit by hustling.

Her mother, Rose Mary Walls, was an artist who occasionally took teaching jobs to help support the family. However, at least once a week, she had to be coaxed to school by her children while she was in the midst of a ridiculous temper tantrum about how she was an adult and should be able to do what she wanted. She also doesn't do very well standing up to Rex, but Jeannette later finds out just how hard that can be, so you really can't blame her too much for that one.

The first story of Jeannette's childhood is of her being severely burned at the age of three. She was making hot dogs for herself on the stove (her mother was probably off painting or something - I can't remember) and somehow caught her dress on fire. She spent many months in the hospital. And the horrifying stories just continue from there - eating out of trash cans, eating a tub of butter because it is the only thing available, the grandmother sexually abusing Jeannette's brother, an uncle pleasuring himself in close proximity to Jeanette after trying to touch her inappropriately, being beaten up by other children, and so many more. Hard to read, hard to believe.

Makes me very grateful for the parents I have, the roof over my head, the food in my kitchen, and so much more.

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posted by Kate at 3:17 PM


Blogger Elizabeth said... Ouch. How unpleasant. How did you decide to read this?

11/05/2007 7:30 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

NYT Bestseller for many weeks. I also read A Child Called It and that was horrifying as well. It's similar to the phenomenon where you are driving down a highway and can't help gawking at an accident.

Or maybe I like the stories where people triumph after the most horrible of upbringings. I'm not really sure.

11/05/2007 7:39 PM  
Blogger ~e said...

this is on the 'read someday' list. i don't think i will ever forget one of my co-workers constantly pitching this title to customers by describing what is (supposedly) the first scene in the book:

author is on her way to some evening function and from her taxi window notices a women picking through the garbage, and recognizes that it's her mother (and appearantly isn't super-shocked).

i agree with the comment on my 'food jerk' post that i also think it's really interesting when two or more people comment on the same title, or better yet, someone's post might get another rager to read something.

11/05/2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

That is the first scene of the book. It definitely sucks you in from the very beginning.

The book is also a very quick read and as you mentioned, it's interesting when more than one of us reads and comments on the same book. I'd be interested to see if you get as mad at the parents as I did. :)

11/06/2007 9:00 AM  
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