Sunday, January 13, 2008

2. The Glass Castle

by Jeannette Walls

I read this memoir for an online book club I now belong to. The author is the second of four children of an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother who can't seem to hold down steady jobs and are constantly moving the family (at least 11 homes by the time the author is four). Numerous incidences of child neglect bordering on abuse are recounted in the book, which is set in the 60's and 70's. Yet, the author (perhaps because she is writing from the viewpoint of herself as a child at the relevant age) shows no bitterness towards her flaky nonconformist parents. This makes the memoir refreshing when compared to others where the author's anger is apparent (Running with Scissors comes to mind).

It's also possible to view Walls' unconventional upbringing as the source of her strength, and her parents as simply creative, unconventional people with a sense of adventure who didn't believe in spoiling their children (in any way). That's probably the best thing about this book – there will be many different reactions, because the author has written objectively and left it up to the reader to pass judgment on her parents.

I highly recommend this book. It's generating some great discussion in the online book club. It's especially interesting to see the children's growing awareness, as they get older, that their family's adventures are not normal.

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