Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

image from LibraryThing

This is one of those books that works it's way into your mind and lodges there. As I go through my own easy life I think of Jeannette and her brother and sisters. Their world seems impossible - completely impossible.

Heather recommended this book and I would recommend it too! It's wonderful!!!

At the same time that I was shelling peas and listening to the Watergate coverage on TV, she was a 13 year old working in a jewelry store earning the money to feed her, her father and brother. She had already lived through cross country trips, starvation, and more than one near fatal accident. Her family had started out in the dusty gold mining towns of the south west, moved to Phoenix and finally dead-ended in Welch, West Virginia. Each move came a moment before the law and their bad credit caught up to them. Jeannette's dad was a drunk, a dreamer and an extremely intelligent man. Mom was an artist - a painter and a writer, who didn't feel that the family was her responsibility.

Jeanette was the second - Lori, an artist and Brian a scrawny fellow a couple years younger than Jeannette. Maureen came along several years later and was more of a pet than one of the sufferers. The Walls family was always the poorest, dirtiest, hungriest and scrappiest of any one else in the neighborhood. But, they were also the smartest - each child reading constantly and continually.

Dad and Jeannette had a special connection. Even as Jeannette became old enough to understand what a hopeless schemer he was, she still loved him deeply and wanted so much for his tales to be true.

One year when it was clear there was no money at all for Christmas gifts - Rex Walls took the three oldest kids outside one at a time and spun them a yarn about the no one owned them, they were the first to discover the importance of this amazing real estate. So, he gave each of the kids their own star for Christmas. He told them the stories of the names of the stars and the constellations they were a part of. This was the dichotomy of Jeannette's life... no food, no shelter, but more knowledge than most around.

As the three kids grew they knew that their only chance at a better life is to get away from their hovel and their parents. New York beckoned.

This story reminds me of Barbara Robinette Moss's book - Change Me into Zeus's Daughter. But, her story is about the hatred in a dysfunctional family. Jeannette's mom and dad made bad choices, but they truly loved their children.

These kinds of stories always make me wonder.... what makes a person break the pattern of this kind of a life? Rex Walls was the child of alcoholics and joined their life - but his children did not. How did they find the courage and the drive? Why do so many others fail???

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