Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Published in 2005.
Unabridged audio book performed by Julia Gibson.

I read this heart-breaking memoir in 2006 - pre-book blog - for my primary in-real-life book club. My church women's group book club picked it for our January 2009 read. At first I thought that I wouldn't re-read it: although I really liked it, The Glass Castle isn't a particularly "happy" or "feel good" book, and I have so very many books on my to-read list. Then I decided that if I was going to try to lead a discussion about the book, I ought to have it fresher in my memory - so I got it on CD from the library. I'm really glad I did!

Bottom line, I think I liked the book even better the second time. The voice of the audio book performer is somewhat whiny - so at first I found that annoying. The foul language of the father was also more jarring when I was hearing it than when I seeing the words on paper. Both of those negatives were offset by the intensity of the story for me this go around, though.

For some reason - maybe because I was hearing the words - I "felt" the story more than had the first time I read it. I was able to put myself in Jeannette's shoes more easily - experiencing her pain as well as the love she truly felt for her highly dysfunctional parents. I like that she tells the story without being judgmental; she lets us draw our own conclusions. I also like that we see the good in her parents, as well as the bad; one of the things I found myself thinking about a lot this time was what I admired about Rex Walls, Jeannette's alcoholic father. One story in particular sticks with me: the Christmas that he gave Jeannette the planet Venus as his gift to her.

The account in the book of Jeannette's older sister Lori getting eyeglasses is, for me, symbolic of the message of the entire book. Just as I was when I got my first pair of glasses, Lori is amazed by the things she can now see. When she asks her mother to try on the glasses, however, Rose Mary returns them, saying that she likes the world as she sees it, not very clear, a bit soft and fuzzy, not quite reality.



  1. This is one book that I can't seem to stop thinking about. I can see where it would be even better the second time around.

  2. What a fantastic book. I loved this one.

  3. I swear I'm going to read this book this year. I picked it up not that long ago and it stares at me on the shelf all the time. Is the language really bad? I don't think we would get away with a book like this for a church book club. We apostatized and went "neighborhood" status after a few run-ins with different titles.

  4. It is certainly an unforgettable book. I was so impressed with how Walls and her siblings grew to be such responsible adults after their parents' examples. Maybe because of those examples.