The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jeannette Walls' memoir is an eye-opening look at how the past often threatens to dictate our future... and how our roots can shape us but don't have to define us.
Jeannette's childhood was marked by two free-spirited parents, hunger, and a lack of directions. Jeannette reflects on her childhood in a manner that feels objective, allowing the reader to read between the lines and form their own opinion. Her observations of her family and a childhood marked by hardship and sacrifice really forces the reader to examine themes of loyalty, motivation, change, and happiness.
This book made me re-evaluate my definitions of family and success while also considering how many people I've made wrong assumptions about. From the very beginning of the memoir, Walls makes it clear that shame and guilt are a part of her equation when it comes to her family. As the memoir unfolds, the reader gets a glimpse into the complex emotional relationship she had with her family growing up and how she has had to figure out how to make these emotions a part of who she is.
This book also made me appreciate my roots and family. I have never known hunger like this author, and I've never really gone without. Jeannette makes our society with a penchant for consumerism realize that food on the table isn't a guarantee in every household. As a teacher, it has opened up the compassion in my heart for others and has made me really stop and think about the plight of others. It has made me realize that no one's life is perfect, but some are struggling with bigger demons that we can imagine.
I certainly felt bad for Walls throughout the memoir. However, her memoir is not marked with a need for pity. She is objective in her narration and doesn't paint on the emotional baggage or cry out to be painted as a martyr or hero. She simply paints her childhood as it was and emphasizes that even in the midst of suffering and treatment that was verging on abusive, there were elements of love in her life--which often seemed one-sided. I admired her strength as a child and as an adult to not only overcome her obstacles but also learn how to make peace with them. I applaud her ability to see the good in her parents, even though they arguably don't seem to deserve this kindness at points in the memoir.
Walls shows us that no one is perfect and that parents are certainly flawed. She shows us that the past certainly plays a role in who we become, but it doesn't have to dictate our entire life. Most of all, she makes us realize that we don't know everyone's story. She shows us, as her father pointed out, that demons lurk in all sorts of places.
Walls' story is one of sacrifice, suffering, and triumph. Most of all, it is a memoir that redefines what it means to overcome, to achieve, and to love.
I applaud the author for writing a brutally honest, open, and relevant memoir and for opening herself up to the world so we can all get a better idea of what others are enduring.
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