- Fizzy Thoughts: Initial impressions of The Glass Castle

Initial impressions of The Glass Castle

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I am currently reading Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle for our March Slow Travel book club. Our fearless leader, Brenda, posted a few links to a review, an interview and a reading guide. I'm only half way through the book, but I'm going to go ahead and reply to a few of the questions.

The first question in the reading guide asks: "Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest?"

  • For me, one of the most shocking scenes was when Rose Mary and Rex so easily walked away from a house in Phoenix. A house that was paid for and provided ample space and free rent for their family. They walked away from that for what is shaping up to be a bleak existence in West Virginia.
  • Another appalling scene is the ride in the back of the U-Haul, with the baby. Parents up front in the cab, kids shut up in the back of a truck.
  • In contrast, the scene where Rex gives his kids stars for Christmas presents is touching and shows the creativity and genius that these two adults were also gifted with.
Another question asks: "The two major pieces of the memoir -- one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia -- feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family -- and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book's tone?"

  • Although I'm only 35 pages into the West Virginia part of the book, I can definitely feel a shift in tone. The book is darker...not as carefree, certainly not as happy. The children are aware of how they are viewed by others, and they are struggling to fit in. They are also starting to feel shame. It's harder to read the book, too, knowing that the children are starting to emotionally feel the effects of their parents carefree/careless attitudes. However, a few things haven't changed. The children are still resilient. And Walls doesn't attack or accuse her parents. She hasn't fallen into self-pity. As usual, she picks herself up and marches on.
I don't know how she did it, but this book is amazing. Walls refuses to throw a pity party. I am constantly battling feelings of amazement for the creativity and intelligence of the family, and disgust with the cavalier attitudes the parents had towards providing the basic human needs of food and shelter, not to mention safety.

2 comment(s):

lisamm said...

I read The Glass Castle 2 or 3 years ago, and remember feeling much the same way. One story that sticks in my head was of the author as a young child hurting herself cooking hot dogs when it appeared no one else was going to get around to feeding anybody. I thought it was truly amazing how self sufficient these kids were from a very very young age, out of necessity, of course.

Annie said...

This book blew my mind - there were several places where I just had to laugh at how outrageous those parents were, even though what I was reading was so sad.

I agree that she tell this story in such a matter-of-fact, don't-pity-me way.

Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts about it.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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