I heard Ms. Walls speak recently and this question came up.
Since publication of the book, Ms. Walls has been put back in touch with Maureen.
While she didn't delve into specifics, Maureen is still living in California. If I recall correctly, Ms. Walls invited Maureen to come live with her but Maureen never wants to live anywhere cold again.
In response to the question about Maureen, Ms. Walls said, "She's Ok, she's Ok". It was obvious to me that she still feels very much responsible/regretful about Maureen.
After hearing Ms. Walls speak, she took questions and I asked why she felt Maureen turned out differently from the other 3 Walls children. She responded that she wasn't sure but that many readers had posed this question and had theories of their own.
My theory is that Maureen did have the neighbors that took care of her. I'm sure her life was still really challenging, but sometimes you gain more from fighting your battles and learning on your own than you do when someone helps you. I am not in any way implying that people shouldn't help each other, I'm just commenting on what I've noticed in families similar to the Walls'.
I also commented to Ms. Walls that I connected to the fact that she and her siblings were not at all jealous of Maureen when she was being taken care of by the neighbors. Her response was so genuine..she said something like, Maureen was just so beautiful I just thought why wouldn't someone want to take care of her. When Ms. Walls speaks of Maureen I could tell that there is more of a story there...Ms. Walls deeply loves Maureen and harbors regret for not being able to take better care of her, even though she was simply a child herself. That really touched me.
If anyone has a chance to hear Ms. Walls speak, I highly recommend it!
My husband has been advising me not to engage with folks on this forum who challenge whether or not I can remember what happened to me when I was three or the name of the school near us in Phoenix, and because he's wiser than I am and has a cooler head, I've taken his counsel. But for more than forty years, I was deeply ashamed of my scars, and now to have someone accuse me of lying about them - of making them up - is a bit much.
The scars on my face from the fall from the car are minor; for example, my right eyebrow has a gap that I fill in with an eyebrow pencil. The scars on my torso from the fire are substantial, and no, you won't see them because I don't wear bikinis or halter tops or even certain low-back dresses.
I understand that a lot of readers feel betrayed by those memoirists who exaggerate or make up things, but some of us really did set out to try to tell the truth - any errors are just that. I don't see us as exhibitionists or the readers as voyeurs. The way I see it, I'm simply saying, here are some of the things I went through, and maybe you can learn something from my life. So to lie would be a betrayal, not just of the reader, but of myself, as well. It would defeat the whole purpose. Many readers seem to understand that, and I'm sorry if my story didn't do that for you.
With warm regards,
The parent's were self serving, mentally ill people who should have never had children. Their children "survived" in spite of them, not learning anything from them. They were ashamed of them..even Jeannette as an adult, as she lied about who her parents were and where she was from etc.. The parent's exposed the children to things that only they themselves were intrigued by. One of the saddest things is that in the mothers insane way of thinking, she actually HAD money from the land she owned, and refused to use it to care for her children. They lived in poverty and filth doing without the basics for absolutely no reason other than the mother's lunacy. Shameful excuse for parenting. They deserve no applaud for how they raised their children. They were selfish..it's simple as that. They even trashed Jeannettes nice apartment when they plopped their filthy bodies and belongings on her in New York. Ungrateful people, who should have been turned over to DCFS. The book was well written and I think Jeannette and her siblings were lucky enough and had the will to survive...although we know nothing about what happened to Maureen. the one who tried to escape the insanity by living with a friend. Poor child. ..
From everything I've heard and I've met Jeanette in person she has not had counseling. I have to say though I think there's a great deal of covering up still. I guess some people can look at a situation and see things as completely different than they are. I know in my own life I could never look at my mother and feel she'd been a good mother. I don't know how Jeanette can provide a roof over her mother's head and not feel any sort of anger about the past. Her mother didn't do her laundry or see that she was clean and fed. How can a person exerience that and not feel anger? How can a person write a book about that kind of experience and not feel the slightest bit of satisfaction that the "truth" is going to be out there and people are going to know how rotten your parents were? Jeanette says she didn't write the book to out anyone........she says that.
I was surprised by the number of people who feel the author could actually control her parents' fates by having them declared incompetent. It is very, very difficult to force anyone to take medication. It is impossible to change someone else's life, even if the other person is cooperative.
My opinion was that Rose Mary had narcissitic personality disorder combined with cyclical depression.
That's an interesting point of view and a good question. I don't know the answer, but after reading and reflecting on the book, I would say that it was a portrait of several very driven personalities...her father who searched for the big score his whole life, the mother who searched for artistic triumph, and Jeanette who wanted a life outside of Appalachia. Her parents were, in a way, both Type A personalities, as I understand it..driven, uncompromising, obsessive. But, their Type A traits were destructive.
What Jeanette had which her parents did NOT have were people who believed and encouraged her..and those people were her parents. Her father's nickname for her was "Mountain Goat"..persistent, constantly climbing higher no matter what the obstacles. Her mother saw their poverty as a choice to be unique. They gave her...even though I doubt it was a conscious choice on their parts...a better, more elevated view of herself.
Contrast that to Rex's parents who were brutal, negative and possibly child abusers. Contrast that, as well, to the image of the mother's mother who was constantly controlling and critical.
So, perhaps Type A is the key to leading a unique life...but not necessarily a productive and positive one. Perhaps Type A needs to be coupled with a positive self-image, strong self-esteem and the ability to compromise.
This book continues to have great word-of-mouth publicity. Those of us who grow tired of hearing politically-correct 'pat' answers about poverty or homelessness continue to point thinking people to this autobiography. I have found some of the negativity and questioning of Ms. Walls' account appalling--blatantly envious, needlessly critical, and possibly offended at some of the conclusions that could be drawn from a nuanced description of poverty. My wife had some childhood experiences with poor/alcoholic parents that were a bit similar to Ms. Walls' account (coincidentally my wife and I both grew up in West Virginia.) The book should be an eye-opener for many who led more sheltered lives, or who have formed simplistic beliefs about poverty or homelessness. For all these reasons, this book has legs. And I'm glad for Ms. Walls.
I think the difference in responses to a mother's failings and a father's failings are grounded in the assumption we have that mothers, above everyone else one ever meets, will protect us and take care of us. Yes, fathers are supposed to be strong, loving and providers, but somehow, no matter what, a mother should fiercely protect her children. Think of the analogy of a mother bear: protecting a child with ferocity and, if need be, loss of her own life - the idea that a mother's first pirority will be to see that her children are clothed, fed, and loved. Mothers hold a place in our collective consciousness as important even above fathers. Think of soliders on the battleflag who cry for whom? Their mothers.
I keep thinking about the movie too. I hope one comes out. I envision it just like the book, starting out with Jeannette in the taxi watching her mom but instead of the going back to the apartment, the camara would remain on her face watching her mother and that part would be an off screen narrative, (like you said)
Then the camera would go back to her mother digging in the dumpster then fade into a scene of her mother digging in the dumpster as a young woman. Then so on.....
And the story would begin of her childhood.
Another note....Have you thought about who would play each character? I think Kate Blanchette for the teenage Jeannette.