Okay, so I didn’t exactly take a road trip. I actually listened to this through my Audible app while commuting, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, and brushing my teeth (oral health is important you know). In other words, I’m busy as hell and you are too, so who has time for actual page turning?! Luckily, Jeanette Walls’ kept me company during my daily chores, as she retold her life story in her own voice.
Glass Castle is Jeanette’s memoir, which documents her youth with a kooky mother and a drunk father, neither of whom have a clue about the “little” things, like putting food on the table and a roof over their heads. Her mother, Rose, is neglectful and doesn’t seem fazed by Jeanette’s first encounter with fire, which sends her to the hospital for skin grafts, and Jeanette’s not complaining because the nurses make sure she is fed and cared for. Rose resents the children for holding her back from the life she imagined as a famous artist and writer, but at the same time she resents them for wanting to leave and start a life of their own. She detests having any kind of regular job because employment simply demands too much of her energy. Jeanette’s father, Rex, is a highly intelligent dreamer who promises to build the infamous glass castle for which the book is titled. However, his inability to quit drinking and start providing for his family leads to some pretty awful decisions like leaving his daughter alone with a lecherous, drunken pool player.
Jeanette’s young life was one “skedaddle” after another, and you might think there is no way she could paint a portrait of her life that would invoke any kind of sympathy for her parents whatsoever. You would be wrong. The simplified language and short sentences that define the style of this book, especially at the beginning, draw the reader (or listener) into Jeanette’s childlike admiration for two people who, although they make seriously crappy parents, defy the materialistic nature of the world to scrape out a living of their own choosing. She makes it easy to understand how a child in her position could fall for the oddly romantic Bonny and Clyde style pair. They are her parents after all, and Jeanette realistically renders a portrait of herself as a child pushing abuse and neglect out of the way in order to see the idealized rugged pioneers she wanted her parents to be. Throughout the novel, Jeanette and her writing style become more sophisticated and objective, and by the end, we see Jeanette as a fully realized adult who is able to shape her own life and look at her parents through a compassionate but not rose-colored lens.
So pick up this memoir for a road trip, or just take a road trip in your mind, as you resist the urge to retroactively call CPS on these nut bags. If you had a semi-decent childhood, it will make you thank your lucky stars, and if you had a crappy childhood, it will make you want to lay all your family shit bare and rake in millions on your best-selling novel. Either way, we know you’ll find something relatable in this story. By the way, there’s some cussing in this novel, so if you’re listening to this in the car, you might want to wait until small children are somewhere else. However, if you don’t mind the language, teenagers might really enjoy this one too, and it’s a great opportunity to remind them that, while they might find your awesome dancing skills a tad embarrassing, at least they’re not sleeping under a boat!
Written By Dot LeSabre who holds the record for taking the longest time to eat an Arby’s sandwich because she has to iron each meat slice flat.