The Glass Castle, by Jeannette WallsJanuary 23rd, 2012 | Posted by in Books | Perspectives | Reviews | Writing Tips
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls is a compelling read. Normally when I become so engrossed in a book I give it an instant five stars. Not so with The Glass Castle. I’m giving it four stars. The writing itself is fantastic. Jeannette Walls is a top-notch writer who uses the first person flawlessly. Usually I get sick of all the, “I did this,” and, “I did that.” “I, I, I …” It’s enough to make me crazy! But I didn’t feel that way while reading The Glass Castle. The sentence structure is full of variation, and greatly refreshing. Jeannette Walls writes brilliantly. Period. She helps the reader understand the feelings of all her characters, not just the one. I’m an instant fan.
The main reason I didn’t give this book five stars is because it is true. That said, had it been a work of fiction I would have tossed it by chapter two, telling my self, this junk just isn’t plausible. And yet, it happened. The more I read, the more that fact bothered me. Jeannette and her siblings handled the situation amazingly well, but the parents … I couldn’t get past them. It seems so wrong to reward that kind of thing with praise, even if it is a memoir. Had it not been for their kooky approach to life, there would not have been a reason to write the book. It’s a circle I couldn’t escape: I hate that it’s true, yet it’s so well written that I couldn’t put it down. This tight knit family struggled desperately, but it didn’t have to be that way. While it was obvious the parents loved their children, they were so absorbed in selfishness that their love was never realized. It never amounted to anything. The children were starving while the mother ate secret chocolate bars. The children had no clothes, no toilet, no warmth, no decent shelter, or food, while their father drank away every cent they had. When the kids earned money, the father stole it. When the kids found a diamond ring in the woods, and were going to sell it to buy food, the mother took it. After all, she deserved to wear nice things. The father even put his daughter in physical danger so that he could win a bet. These kids were eating out of the school garbage can. Jeannette’s brother had to sleep with a raft over him because of the massive leak in the roof. When the children were in danger, the parents shrugged their shoulders. When the children were being sexually abused, the parents rationalized it away. After all, the abuser was only lonely, and children need to learn to handle those kinds of situations anyway. It made for shocking, riveting reading, but it also left me feeling warped.
So five stars to Jeannette for her amazing ability to write such a fluid narrative. Zero stars to the parents who made the story possible. Four stars to the book, with the rationalization that it probably should be five, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.