The Glass Castle: A Memoir

Lily Hughes, Writer

In March of 2005, Jeannette Walls officially opened the doors to her life for all the world to see, and judge freely. Her thrilling life story shocked readers with its incredible insanity and near fictional events. But to Jeannette, it was her childhood. Growing up in the care of Rex and Rose Mary Walls, Jeannette had nothing near a privileged childhood. With her memoir sharing each detail of her unbelievable past, she writes, “I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes.”

A truly inspiring story that touches readers as much as this novel does is extremely rare, and often times nowhere near as impactful. With each fresh page comes a sense of disbelief and dread of what the future holds for the Walls’ family. The extent of neglect for the children, Lori, Brian, Jeannette, and Maureen, is shocking and outright infuriating. The memoir is an outstanding masterpiece of emotion that the reader easily feeds off of, allowing close connections with the characters.

The reader is also given a first-hand experience of what horrors are in store for a family on the run from bill collectors, jumping from rundown rentable homes to disturbing relatives. Jenna Cavin, a substitute English teacher in Georgia, shares her experience with the phenomenal story of Walls: “The Glass Castle is a powerful book that shows the resilience of the human spirit, the determination to overcome hardship, and the incredible bond of family. It is a novel that remains with you long after you read the last page.”

Despite the fact that both Rex and Rose are geniuses in disguise, they lack the want and knowledge to raise children. Keeping their family on the move causes the children to rarely attend school, and be forced to learn from both their parents and their own mistakes. At as young as the age of three, the Walls’ children are preparing their own food and fending for themselves. “The Glass Castle is a fast-paced intriguing true story about a young girl whose eccentric parents leave the family in constant chaos and often extreme poverty.” Patsy Harley reflects on her thoughts of the memoir. “Yet the author is able to rise above the great emotional pain and tragic memories to embrace her past and love her parents for who they were.”

Jeannette allows us a glimpse into how often we take our own comforts, such as indoor plumbing, for granted. Readers should be strongly warned that this book is not suitable for everyone, and be aware that this piece of literature includes alcohol, child molesting, prostitution, near rape experiences, inappropriate and possibly offensive language, and in-depth details of a neglected childhood.

This memoir was truly a life-changing novel and should be on every young adult reading list. In past years, The Glass Castle was a selection for the eleventh-grade summer reading. But in more recent times, a staggering 63% of students haven’t even heard of the memoir. Every student comfortable with the dark subjects should consider reading it, as it allows us to understand the different lives other children experience. It is almost impossible to process how Jeannette functioned in such a world, but through her words, we are able to at least try.