The Glass Castle
- Jeannette Walls -
This was the kind of story that makes you want to run out to the grocery store and buy one, maybe two, tons of food and drive it down to the food bank. Or better yet, to a school breakfast program. Or even better, search out and find a dysfunctional family in dire need and make them take it! Make them, for the love of their kids souls!
This novel brought up a few very heavy topics; child neglect, alcohol abuse, extreme poverty, violence, 'perverts', gambling, prejudice, homelessness...ok, more than a few topics. Well, other than abortion and child soldiers this book covers a huge gambit of sad, hard, frightening experiences. Although saying this I left the book with a feel good feeling and an appreciation for the easy life I've lived.
What I found amazing was the writing. Even through all the tough subject I've mentioned you never get the feeling that Walls is looking for pity. If never felt like she was whining and griping but just telling it like it is, or was. The writing is so personal yet it draws you right into her gritty life, even though most of these things you'd never experience, you can almost picture it like you are there...which made me feel a bit uncomfortable at times, which is a sign of a great book. An amazing book.
What I found amazing was how Walls perceived the, obvious now, child neglect and poverty as 'normal'. Since that was the only life she knew it makes complete sense. It was also shocking how her parents encouraged this perception by reinforcing how better their life was than other families. How their life was an adventure!
The adventure consists of an unsettled life where they would move towns in a moments notice. Where they had to live in their car at times. When you never knew if there would be food tomorrow. But, they sure got to travel around, see the country...even if they fell out of the car sometimes, and their Dad was driving drunk with beer bottles in his lap. This true story is so outrageous it sounds like fiction. But, when you stop to think that it is not, everything is true, that's when the shock settles in.
There are not all bad times. The parents are very interesting and charismatic people who just happen to have checked out of society. They do a great job at homeschooling the children and encouraging imaginative and creative children. The Dad is a star in Jeannette's life whom she looks upto and adores, never seeing his faults until much later in life. He tells wonderful stories and makes grand plans for the family. But, he never seem to follow through on anything.
The novel gives you a peek at a slice of society which I'm sure exists more than we know, a look into terrible poverty and those who just don't buy into civilization as a majority of us live it. It is a definite eye opener. A book that I've put on a list of books to read before you die. I would not be far from saying this should be mandatory reading in school to bring awareness and compassion for those living poverty stricken lives.