Book Review: The Glass Castle

by Adele Hardwick

Jeannette Walls’s mind was filled with the illusion of grandeur when her father, Rex, an innovative and mathematical man promised to make a spectacular home, The Glass Castle, that was just their own. This is an unrealistic dream for her family since they were practically nomads fighting oppression on a daily basis. Jeanette had to handle more than the average ten-year-old: starvation, an illegitimate education, and poverty. The reader realizes that Jeannette Walls got stuck with a bad hand of cards as she shares her childhood with the world. She created an adventure at all the unfortunate events that almost seem to come out of a horrific fiction novel.

Walls persistently dreamed of a lifestyle better than the one she was dealt. With her parents neglecting her basic needs, they were constantly on the run. This meant that there was little stability for Jeanette and her siblings to hold on to. Materialism meant very little to her parents since neither would hold a job for more than a few months. Sometimes Jeanette was only allowed to keep one rock out of her rock collection when they were on the run. Her parents told her they moved for an adventure, while they were more likely running from money collectors. Her father, Rex, would take what little money they had and waste it on beer and women.

Her mother, Rose Mary, had a whole set of flaws. She refused to leave her husband when he had his drunken fits in the middle of the night and would not sign her family up for welfare when the kids were starving. Her ideology on parenthood was that her kids must fend for themselves. She offered no protection and allowed them to deal with their own problems.

The family never searched for sympathy from outsiders, since it was a sign of weakness. Her siblings were her everlasting companions trying to handle each condition with creativity. For instance, “Since we didn’t have money for furniture, we improvised…Instead of beds, we kids each slept in a big cardboard box, like the refrigerators get delivered in.” Jeanette had a sense of family pride; she stood by them even when they failed her.

Her memory is vast since she can recall her livelihood as young as a five years old with such specific details, “I was on fire. I was a three-year-old, and we were living in a trailer park in a southern Arizona town name I never knew. I was standing on a chair in front of the stove… I felt the a blaze of heat on my right side. I turned to see where it was coming from and realized my dress was on fire. Frozen with fear, I watched the yellow-white flames make a ragged brown line up the pink fabric of my skirt and climb my stomach. Then the flames leaped up, reaching my face.” After Jeanette was seriously burned, she would use fire as a fixation to be able to observe the chaos.

Walls eloquently contributed her memoir to her siblings, Maureen, Lori and Brian. She requested their permission to record and publish their troublesome style of living. Each child found their own advancement in society after surviving neglect. This took courage from all of the siblings to allow something so personal to be published for the world. Although her tale was gloomy, Walls was a fighter and made do with what she had in life to inspire any person to achieve his or her goals.

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