Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is the story of one fucked up family! Jeannette is a 3 year old girl having to go to the hospital because her dress caught on fire while she was cooking hot dogs. (First of all, what was a 3 year old girl doing cooking hotdogs by herself). She ended up having to have a skin graft on her face because her face was burned. The nurse at the hospital gave Jeannette chewing gum, which she never had before. Her mom was upset because the nurse didn't consult her first. (Come on, you won't let your 3 year old chew gum, but you will let her cook hot dogs). While she was there, her brother fell off the couch at home and cracked his head open but his parents didn't take him to the hospital because they didn't want to have 2 kids in the hospital plus they didn't really trust the hospital. She was in the hospital for 6 weeks, then her dad broke her out of there and told her now she will be safe. When she got home, she went back to cooking hotdogs and her mom was glad that she wasn't afraid to do that. Her dad even taught her to pass her finger through a candle flame. She became kind of obsessed with fire.

One night, Jeannette's dad had everyone pack up in a hurry and they set out on the road to the desert. Jeannette forgot her favorite Tinkerbell doll, and of course her dad said she doesn't need it. He also threw their real pet cat out the window because it wasn't a good traveller. They moved from place to place. Her dad would get a job (sometimes he wasn't even qualified for) and then he would lose it and their bills would stack up and they would move on. Jeannette's dad showed her how to shoot a gun by 4 years old. Her dad seemed like a pretty smart man, but he was a drunk. He mostly drank beer, but when they had money, he would drink harder stuff and get really mean. He also was a great storyteller:
"When dad wasn't telling us about all the amazing things he had already done, he was telling us about the wondrous things he was going to do. Like build the Glass Castle. All of Dad's engineering skills and mathematical genius were coming together in one special project: a great big house he was going to build for us in the desert. It would have a glass ceiling and thick glass walls and even a glass staircase. The Glass Castle would have solar cells on the top that would catch the sun's rays and convert them into electricity for heating and cooling and running all the appliances. It would even had its own water purification system. Dad had worked out the architecture and the floor plans and most of the mathematical calculations. He carried around the blueprints for the Glass Castle whereever we went, and sometimes he'd pull them out and let us work on the design for our rooms."
"All we had to do was find gold, Dad said, and we were on the verge of that. Once he finished the Prospector (a device he was inventing to find gold) and we struck it rich, he'd start work on our Glass Castle." P.25
Now I see why she was allowed to make hot dogs from this paragraph:
"Mom always said people worried too much about their children. Suffering when you're young is good for you, she said. It immunized your body and your soul, and that was why she ignored us kids when we cried. Fussing over children who cry only encourages them, she told us. That's positive reinforcement for negative behavior". P. 28.
One of the kids named Lori came home from school with a note that she needed glasses and her mom told her no way and that you just have to use your eyes to make them stronger. The school made her get them in order to attend and they even offered to buy them. After she got the glasses, she couldn't believe how much better she could see. She could actually see each leaf on a tree and was surprised when she found out that she was the only one that couldn't see that before.

Sometimes I forgot that I was reading a memoir because of all that happened. This book reminded me of "The Road" in the way that they always had to scavenge for food and moved from place to place. Sometimes they would have a lard sandwich, or eat popcorn for three days, or sometimes not eat at all. Jeannette sure had a tough life growing up. She always had to give things up. Whenever they moved they couldn't take much and she had to usually take just one item. It just is frustrating how her parents wouldn't accept any help from welfare or anyone either. I think the parents were too proud. They should have thought about their kids and what was best for them.
I recommend reading this book, and I gave this book 5 stars!


  1. Great review...I see you included the word!! Pretty messed up family...but it should give others hope that you can overcome bad things and still live a life of meaning!

  2. This was a memoir?! Bloody hell!!

  3. Loved the book! Should read Half Broke Horses!