- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 10 hours and 25 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: September 28, 2010
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0044X4QEA
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Glass Castle: A Memoir Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
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. Although we see the cruelty with which these neglected chilidren are treated, we also see the people who help them and their own protection of their family. As Jeannette views it, the worst possible thing would be separation from her siblings, and I'm inclined to agree with her. Certainly, this book tests my assumption that children get their values from their parents. The Walls children formed theirs in opposition to their parents' in many ways, but they also managed to hang onto the dogged independence and sense of wonder that they admired in Mom and Dad.
I hope this book will enter the list of child survival stories that in my mind includes Tobias Wolfe's "Duke of Deception" and Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes." Certainly I would recommend it for readers everywhere who are convinced they were deprived.
On the plus side, the prose is far from difficult to read, and has good flow. It has a surprisingly upbeat feel to the writing in spite of the subject matter, which is of 4 small children being raised by extremely negligent and sometimes abusive parents. The dad is an alcoholic, with delusions of grandeur and is possibly bipolar. The mom is more atypical in her psychoses. She seems cold-heartedly selfish to the point of disbelief. She is a narcissistic hoarder who will not willingly part with anything, even selling an unused property in Phoenix to help keep her kids from starving. The mom actually has a lot of material wealth through inheritance, but she and her husband squander all liquid assets quickly and refuses to part with anything else. The mom gains weight while not providing food for her kids. At one point the kids find hidden candy bars that she was keeping to herself. This is while she is sending her kids to school with no lunches and they are eating partially consumed food out of trash cans. Jeannette admits she was closer to her father, so maybe that is why he comes off a little more sympathetic than the mom. At least he seems to have moments of true feeling for his kids, though his behavior is often equally outrageous (coming close to acting as a pimp for his daughter out at one point). This family was extremely unfortunate to have not one, but two extremely dysfunctional parents. There is a particularly moving scene when the oldest daughter gets glasses that made me get a little teary-eyed and especially angry towards the selfish parents. I really did enjoy this book overall, and feel it did express the exasperation and disbelief that accompanies having a family member (or two) with mental illness.
The book's weakest point is that the stories don't always ring true. How does Jeannette remember so much detail from when she was three? Were there ATMs in the 70's? Why is Jeannette not more bitter towards her parents? How has this bad upbringing affected her negatively as well as positively? Also, some more detail is wanted to fill in some of the gaps in the stories. The youngest daughter is unable to live a functional life. This is not explored very much. None of the girl children went on to have children of their own. Jeannette eventually goes to a prestigious college but glosses over how it was financed. There is supposedly a wealthy uncle out there (mom's brother) but he is only briefly even mentioned. The family never approaches him for help though they mooch off of other, less affluent family. Also, though the novel is lighthearted, this minimizes the horror that should shine through in the story more. Sometimes Jeannette comes across as glib in how she interprets these awful memories from her childhood.
Anyways, I recommend reading this book as it is an interesting portrayal of an interesting life. It could use more depth, but there is something to be said for such a novel not being a total pity party too.