The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Summary ~ Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

CRAZY!  This memoir is CRAZY!  Crazy bad but wicked good.  The Glass Castle is a memoir that reads like fiction because you keep saying to yourself this is too horrible to have really happened.  Well, Jeannette Walls and her three siblings, Lori, Brian and Maureen lived it and you can read all about it in Jeannette Walls’ disturbing memoir. 

What did they live through?  Their parents crazy antics, irresponsible parenting (really no parenting when it counted), gypsy lifestyle and hellish living conditions around the country.  My eyes hurt from rolling them in annoyance at Rose Mary & Rex Walls!  Continuing to have children but no sense of civilian responsibilities or even a desire for a “normal” life infuriated me.  Subjecting their children to a life of scattered “homes”, taking them in and out of schools and “skedaddling” from town to town in the middle of the night because of Rex’s conspiracy theories and not addressing sex abuse when their children were honestly reporting serious situations just made me more upset. 

It’s hard to really “review” The Glass Castle because it’s not a work of fiction but true accounts of a family’s life.  All I can say is The Glass Castle is worth the time it takes to read it (a fairly quick read really) and I promise you it will disturb you if you are a functioning citizen of American society and have any lick of common sense and ethic compass. 

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

6 thoughts on “The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

  1. I loved The Glass Castle. And I just finished her second novel, Half Broke Horses, which was fascinating too. And not quite as disturbing as Glass Castle.

  2. Seriously, so far this book is insane. Like, these parents are totally brainwashing their children. It’s just crazy. I suppose all parents do in a way, but these parents are mentally ill/had some tragic event in their lives

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