A+ Book Review

Out of Amazon’s 571,391 biographies and memoirs available The Glass Castle is my pick for this week’s A+ Book Review.

At #171, The Glass Castle had the highest Amazon rating of any non-fiction book I could find during my research of best-selling non-fiction. Over 1,600 people gave the book an average of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Book Review

The Glass Castle

The Book Review

Jeannette Walls chronicles her life in the Glass Castle from age three when her tutu caught on fire as she cooked hot dogs to the beginning of her second marriage.

A sane response, of course, is “Why is a three-year-old cooking anything over an open flame unsupervised?”

The four children of Rose Mary and Rex Walls suffered starvation, being pimped, rock fights, and being shot by a vindictive boyfriend with a BB gun. They took baths every few months and learned the power of positive thinking, how to read at age three, and how to shoot a pistol by about six. Water froze in their kitchen sink, the ceiling caved in and no one repaired it, and they had a plastic bucket in the kitchen that they emptied weekly when their outhouse no longer worked.

They moved often. When they couldn’t pay the rent, they moved. They left if someone got in trouble. Eventually, they retreated to Rex’s parents’ home. You would think that might get better for them.

The mother, Rose Mary, hated teaching and refused to get out of bed to her first day of class when school started. She never taught again. She preferred reading, drawing and writing. Nothing ever sold.

The Positive Spin

The parents fought and loved each other, protected from and threw their children into more abusive situations most people can imagine. They taught their children to be resourceful, creative, and self-sufficient. All four children read voraciously. At young ages, they suspected life could be better than it was at home.

But could they escape? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Pondering the Glass Castle

Normal would be uninteresting. This story has all the drama of excellent fiction, with one bad thing after another happening to the protagonists – the children. However, this book is non-fiction. One reviewer said that you could understand the father, who was an alcoholic. You could definitely forgive him after meeting his mother in Welch, West Virginia.

One book review reported that it was harder to understand the mother than the father. That was an understatement.

In retrospect, when the shock of the book started to wear off this morning, I remember that life was different even 25 years ago. When I tried to shock a woman just younger than my step-son with all the salacious details that happened to the poor heroine, she said, “Oh that was my mom’s life.” Her mom is five years older than I am.

The Perspective of Time

That made me think. When I grew up in the mid-50s, my relatives in rural areas still used outhouses. Grandma poured boiling hot water into my cold bath water while I sat in it. At four I went to the basement with her to shovel coal into the furnace. We still used the chamber pot under her bed at night.

My parents allowed us to be incredibly independent and sometimes seemed cavalier about taking us to the doctor. I almost set myself and the house on fire when I was four years old. Mom monitored our noise level, not our activities. I had been quiet for too long and mom got suspicious – or I would not be here today.

Want to A Perfect Book Club Book?

See what this book does? If you want to spend a riveting few hours, or your book club is looking for something interesting to discuss and reminisce, read The Glass Castle: a Memoir.

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