Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

(also reviewed by Heather)

Jeannette Walls' father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Excerpt from Review

My Review: I enjoyed reading this story of parents who completely neglected 96% of theri child-rearing that wrong? Perhaps it was because in the early years of Jeannette Walls' life they either had it more together, or her childish innocence hid their failings better and so the book began with unique and semi-responsive parents who simply led an alternative bohemian lifestyle. At this stage of the book the parents met about 50% of their responsibilities, perhaps simply dropping the societally dictated ones. In the process they taught their children genuine lessons of self-reliance, individuality and imagination, they also showed love for each other and their children.

The lessons in imagination and individuality lessened as the hard lessons in self-reliance grew. The parents' failure grew greater and greater, this occuring in conjunction with the author losing respect for them, until ultimately there is none left, either from the daughter or from me, the reader. The lack of parental support eventually made it more favorable for the children to move, one by one, to New York City, as older teenagers than to remain with the parents. And in NYC, on their own, they quickly made lives for themselves that were better than when their parents were hindering them.

"Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life overcoming." - Hope Floats

However, the daughter writing this memoir is now a reporter contributing to MSNBC, married, living in NY state and seemingly well adjusted, as are most of her siblings. This reminds me of a conversation I had in a book club. The discussion was all the things our parents had done wrong in raising us. However the group in question was full of vibrant, intelligent, pulled together adults and I realized that the failings of our parents are what have made us the people we are - and hopefully we are reaching a stage where we like that person complete with the echo's of our parents' influence in every corner.

My rating: 4 stars.

To sum up in one sentance: Uplifting read that makes you realize you are a good parent, and so is your mom.

1 comment:

Christine said...

I have read this book, and can't wait to read it for book club. The story is rich and I was hooked from the first page. I finished it in one day because I just couldn't put it down. I would love to hear what other people think of it.


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