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The Glass Castle: A Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Jeannette Walls
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4,467 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents' knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them--despite their overwhelming self-absorption--resonates from cover to cover. --Brangien Davis

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Freelance writer Walls doesn't pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2476 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (December 15, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000OVLKMM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,092 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1,332 of 1,384 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True to Life Account November 13, 2005
Format:Hardcover
I grew up in Welch, WV and was acquainted with Jeanette and Brian(Lori was older and Maureen was younger). I can attest that her harrowing account of growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother in the coalfields of WV was as she says. This was a compelling read, all the more so, because it was about people and places I knew so well. As I read, I was filled with sorrow and shame because I was one of those people who didn't want to have close association with them because they were so different from me. I try to asuage my guilt by telling myself I saw things from a child's maturity level. I wish I could apologize and find myself wondering what would have happened if I had befriended Jeanette. She could have enriched my like tremendously. For those of you who doubt things could not have happened like it was written, don't. I knew it and I saw it, and to a degree, lived it. And as tragic as it was, it was true.
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917 of 976 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT A COURAGEOUS MEMOIR - - BRAVO! February 27, 2005
Format:Hardcover
First, "The Glass Castle" is a real page turner - - I couldn't put it down and finished it in about four hours - - a record for me!

It's probably the most thoughtful and sensitive memoir I can ever remember reading - - told with such grace, kindness and fabulous sense of humor.

It's probably the best account ever written of a dysfunctional family -- and it must have taken Walls so much courage to put pen to paper and recount the details of her rather bizarre childhood - - which although it's like none other and is so dramatic - - any reader will relate to it. Readers will find bits and pieces of their own parents in Rex and Rose Mary Walls.

Her journey across the country, ending up in a poor mining town in West Virginia and then finally in New York City, is a fascinating tale of survival.

Her zest for life, even when eating margarine and sugar and bundled in a cardboard box with sweaters, coats and huddling with her pets, is unbelievably beautiful - - and motivating.

If I could give a book ten stars, it would be "The Glass Castle."
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464 of 506 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inferno to Paradiso (or close enough) December 14, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Jeannette Wall's trek, as depicted in "Glass Castle", recalls Dante's

journey through Hell and eventual ascenscion to Paradise. The comparison may seem risibly over-dramatic, but just as Dante had to go through the experience of the Netherworlds before he could be led to Heaven, so, too, is Jeannette's eventual triumph the FRUIT of a childhood filled with poverty and, what some would call, parental neglect or even abuse.

In the opening section about Jeannette's early childhood, sort of the outer rungs of hell, we are introduced to the author's quirky family. Her father, Rex, is a brainy underachiever who cannot keep a job and has a bit of a "drinking situation".

The mother is an eccentric artist who cannot be bothered too much

by mundane tasks- you know, like cooking or cleaning the house. The children, all extremely bright, are often underfed and left to fend for themselves. However, if the parents have failings, they also have redeeming qualities. The children are immersed in an environment that values art, music, intellectual pursuits, freedom and self-sufficiency and spurns racism and all forms of bourgeois superficiality. Above all, the reader never doubts that Rex and his wife truly love the children. One gets the feeling throughout that Jeanette never doubts that either.

In any case, the early years are bittersweet. If there is squalor and hunger there is also humor and magic. Most of all, there is hope. The family frequently moves and, although that is frustrating, it also provided the background for a myth: that the next town would provide prosperity.

But then to Welch they did go!
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124 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for Your Reading List. November 27, 2006
Format:Paperback
I was grateful that the chapters are short in this disturbing memoir, because I could only take in a little at a time. It's difficult to imagine a more dysfunctional household than the one in which Walls grew up. What sets her book apart is the distinctive voice in which she narrates that dysfunction, and her growing awareness that she's entitled to a decent life.

We meet the fiesty Jeannette as a toddler, badly burned while cooking hot dogs on a stove for herself. No, she wasn't defying her mother's orders. She was simply taking care of herself in a household where both parents thumbed their noses at such simple conventions as regular meals, sound shelter, decent clothing, running hot water and protection from sexual predators. On one thing, though, they didn't scrimp: the children were taught to read at an early age. I'm convinced that held the key to their survival. Thanks to public libraries, Jeannette read the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder prairie series before she entered school. It must have helped normalize the survivalist lifestyle that her parents adopted.

The difference is that it wasn't necessary. Rex, her father, was when sober an accomplished electrician and science maven. Her mother, Rose Mary, had a college degree but found teaching, like motherhood, an imposition on her life as an artist. The three older children--Lori, Jeannette and Bryan--functioned as a family within the family. The youngest, Maureen, grew dependent on the kindess of strangers and eventually set out on her own.

This is a uniquely American story that wanders all over the landscape from California and Arizona to West Virginia and New York.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Rather depressing as it is a true story.....
Published 1 hour ago by Judy Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Page turner
This book kept me engaged from the very beginning. I went from happy to angry to jealous as I read about her childhood into adulthood.
Published 17 hours ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very much enjoyed this book
Published 17 hours ago by Diane Kauffman
5.0 out of 5 stars I very gripping life's story following the family members and ...
I very gripping life's story following the family members and the family's "adventures" through the eyes of a child.
Published 1 day ago by EVA PERDAHL
1.0 out of 5 stars Gifted
The quickest way to say what this book is about is to give a nod to every praise: She does have a knack for spinning a yarn; each memory is more incredible than the last; it is... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Mary Louise Austin
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I have not read it yet but it arrived as expected
Published 2 days ago by Evelyn E.
4.0 out of 5 stars Really 4-41/2 stars I thought the book was great. However
Really 4-41/2 stars I thought the book was great. However, the first half of the book was a bit slow for my taste.
Published 3 days ago by phyllzie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Such an interesting read! Will have you shocked chapter after chapter...
Published 4 days ago by mariahcarey
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read of a bizarre family. Many of the incidents with stick...
I read this book several years ago and loved it so much I wanted my own copy to mark the craziest parts and to read it again. Read more
Published 5 days ago by george
4.0 out of 5 stars Power of the Human Spirit to Overcome at its Best
An amazing autobiography. This is a wonderful insight into what leads some people into chronic homelessness. Read more
Published 5 days ago by JKD in NM
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More About the Author

Jeannette Walls lives in Virginia and is married to the writer John Taylor. She is a regular contributor to MSNBC and has worked at several publications, including Esquire, USA Today, and New York.

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