This response was very insightful and well thought out. The early days with the parents were not nearly as horrific as the later years when the mother fell into a deep depression and the father was at home less and less. He rarely seemed to interact with Maureen and she seemed a bit like her mother's favorite early on, which, in this case, was not a good thing. Also, the older kids were peers; Maureen had no one at her level. She didn't seem to have the resilience the others had, poor girl. I hope she is doing better.
I too wondered about Maureen. It seems in the book, that the parents did not have much to do with her, especially if she lived with friends in W.V. rather than live with the family. I think they were detached from her altogether. It seems that Maureen inherited the parent's mental illness. The other children, when they were finally able to, escaped the dysfunctional life by "skedaddling" to New York first chance they got.
[Deleted by the author on Oct 25, 2009 8:12:34 PM PDT]
I had similar thoughts about why Maureen turned out the way she did. It's amazing that three children went on to live fulfilling lives and were not more damaged by their parents' instability and neglect. I think Maureen is a sad reminder of the painful, abusive side of the Walls family life.
I knew Maureen briefly around the time she first came to New York, when she was 14 (I was a member of Lori's group of friends; I met Maureen through another member of the group). I knew the 50 words or less version of her history. To all appearances, she was a nice, happy, well adjusted and mature young woman. I also remember several years later when the friend told me what happened between Maureen and her mother; it was a shock to everyone who knew her.
My point is that Maureen showed no outward signs of mental illness when she first came to New York, or for a while afterward.
It appears to me that its obvious the mother has mental disorders, and likely on top of the alcoholism, the father did too. With that in mind, it is highly likely that Maureen also suffers from mental disorders. It might not be so much that she is a "product of her environment", but more that she is a product of her genetic background. I think its astounding that 3 of the 4 of them managed to become productive members of society. The book was gripping and informative. It gave me a peek into a lifestyle that many of us want to turn a blind eye to. My kudos to Jeannette for her openness and candor.
I think that Maureen probably was born with a predisposition toward mental illness. The father's reference to her "faulting wiring" is evidence of this. Perhaps it is something that could have been treated if she had not grown up in such a dysfuncitional situation.
I do not think Ms. Walls is bipolar or sociopathic. Obviously, she is a good person who overcame tremendous obstacles. In the face of great challenges she made something of herself. What is wrong with this? Jealous?
Going by the descriptions in the book I think it more likely Mrs Walls (the mother, not Jeannette) has Borderline Personality rather than Bipolar Disorder. The constant need for "excitement" or living in crisis is a definite symptom, as well the other aspects of her personality. I think Mr (Rex) Walls was a dreamer and fantasist whose alcohol addiction and probably sexual abuse when he was a child caused even more damage to his already affected mind. I found myself sympathising (slightly) more with Rex than Rose Mary who seems to have spent her entire life totally unconcerned with her children's needs or feelings. She is undoubtedly one of the most self-involved people I've encountered but it seems that Rex at least made an effort, feeble though it was. The truly amazing thing is that these children still managed to love their parents. Yes, even abused children love their abusers, but these people recognised their parents did wrong and still forgave them. I don't think it helped Maureen at all to live with their parents in New York and she certainly seems to have inherited the worst of both parents' issues. I sincerely hope she gets the help and support she needs.