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Engaging But Ultimately Superficial
on April 22, 2012
Reading the reviews here, so many people seem to forget the book is a work of fiction. The trials and tribulations of Lily Casey are, for the most part, a product of the author's imagination. The story is inspiring, certainly - over and over again Lily "digs deep, rises up, and overcomes" her circumstances. But there is a dark undercurrent to Lily that is never explored in any detail. She has, to put it bluntly, rage issues. She beats a schoolchild mercilessly, and also "whales" her teenage daughter with a belt to the point of nearly blacking out, while the girl whimpers on the floor. Both kids' offenses that lead to the beatings have sexual undertones, which is interesting, but not discussed at all. And the elephant in the room is "The Glass Castle," which details (in ways that strain credulity) Jeanette Walls' dismal upbringing at the hands of Lily's daughter Rose Mary. The cycle of mothers neglecting and taking out their frustrations on their daughters starts with Lily's mother, and is clearly handed down to Lily, then Rose Mary, then Jeannette - who we can only assume finally broke the cycle with her own children - and Jeanette's sisters, one of whom turned to drugs and homelessness herself. It would have added a rich layer of personal interest for the author to explore this subtext, rather than going on and on about Lily's exploits (she flies planes! races horses! plays poker! drives a hearse! and was a bootlegger!). Lily was a force of nature to be sure, but that force also destroyed her daughter Rose Mary, which really isn't something to celebrate.