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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls The subtitle for this book could be 'When Two Completely Insane People Decide to Reproduce.' Jeannette Walls reveals all in this memoir of her life with nomadic parents who hold . . . umm, unusual values. The fact that at least three children were able to escape the cycle of alcoholism and irresponsibility is a tribute to their ambition and intelligence, but what they went through before breaking out on their own is almost unbelievable.

Jeannette's father, Rex, plans to build his family a Glass Castle. He has the plans with plumbing and wiring all accounted for. As a child, the author has faith in her father, can't wait to help him see his goal accomplished, and doesn't understand why her siblings seem to doubt him. As she matures, she learns the hard way that he is what is dragging their family down.

He is not alone in his selfishness and neglect of his children. Jeannette's mother, Rose Mary, is helpless, irresponsible to a ridiculous degree, and starves her children while hording candy bars for herself. She makes decisions that I'm fairly certain could have her institutionalized and willingly raises her children in poverty and hunger rather than making an effort to improve their position. I was appalled by the situations that the author was placed in either directly by her parents or due to the fact that they simply didn't care.

Rex does have a redeeming moment or two where he proves that deep down he would like to provide for his family and be a good father. He is surprisingly intelligent and reads books on physics while getting "pickled." For much of the book, the children of the family seem to blame the family's problems on Rex, though I'm not so sure that more of it shouldn't have been placed at the feet of Rose Mary, who continuously disregards any opportunity she has to make their life better.

I would have been incredibly bitter, but the author still seems to respect her parents for who they are and tries to understand the decisions they made. Understandably, she has moments of anger and had an escape plan by the time she was 16 years old, but I felt that she was very forgiving. She is remarkably unscarred, physically and mentally.

'The Glass Castle' is a quick-paced read that may change the way you look at people and will definitely make you thankful for every blessing.