Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

I should start out my review of Walls' memoir by stating I am not a fan of memoir. I do not understand why others feel their past, their pain, their history is of any significance to the rest of the world. This is not to say, at times, that a memoir isn't capable of being fascinating. Of having lessons. Of being important in a historical context. Walls' The Glass Castle never really finds its meaning.

Having spent the past two days reading, basically non-stop, I have spent a lot of time wondering 'why?' What drives one to feel their story is necessary. My main thought is memoir is a way to cope. A form of therapy. As someone who likes to take the personal and sprinkle it with fiction, I realize the therapeutic nature of writing of one's life. After spending a lot of time in bed this afternoon, with The Glass Castle, I took notice of the family living across the street. As I pulled out of my driveway and drove down the street, I noticed a young couple and their two children. They had spread a blanket out on the front lawn. Were laying about in different configurations of comfort. This is what Walls is writing about. Her desire to have lived this moment of an ideal life. And who wouldn't look at this family in their Fall moment and think 'why didn't I have that?' This is why Walls' memoir was so successful. The dysfunction and envy we all have for a better family life.

The Glass Castle lacks purpose and prose. I would have found the memoir a thousand times more enjoyable had Walls worked on her prose. So much of the story is just fact after fact. Event after event. Walls lacks the ability to really bring to life her history. Focused too much on the behavior and anecdotes of her family. On purpose, there is little. Walls rarely, if ever, meditates on her history. So much of this story is just stated. Walls is never able to dig behind the meaning. To connect an understanding for a behavior or an attitude. This is a very shallow re-telling of a childhood.

There are plenty of emotional moments throughout the book. This is not to say Walls is successful at creating atmosphere. This is to say Walls is just like every single reader... wanting to make sense of their past. Wanting to understand why certain family connections never truly worked. Why certain family members were always too far away. As readers, we relate to the broken family. Or, at least those of us lucky enough to have been brought up in dysfunction (this should be most people).

After completing the book, I started looking up reviews and information. I was saddened to see a film version of the book was in the works. I am saddened because we are glorifying this emptiness. We are accepting Walls' inability to understand her past. We are accepting the behavior of her parents- two selfish individuals who never should have given birth. This is my biggest issue with the story, the parents. Two people who are hardly ever able to think beyond themselves. Spend their children's youths in poverty because they are never able to examine themselves or what they're doing to others. Walls refuses to hold her parents fully accountable. She comes from the old school belief that your family is a bond never broken.

Maybe I am too cold and distant a person to understand Walls' shallowness and stupidity. Maybe I went into a memoir hating the form too much to give it a chance. Or, maybe, The Glass Castle is really just a selfish act of a woman following in her parents' footsteps.



  1. I would like to know how Jeannette Walls is following in her parents footsteps? Besides the fact that she left home at seventeen like her father, she in no way has lived on the streets when she moved to New York and liked it. She didn't go through garbage bins, drink everyday, and she wasn't a lunatic like her mother who robbed their childhood because she didn't want the responsibility. You have written a very poor opinion of this book, and I think you need to re-read it because this memoir does not need to be picked apart with your opinions. It is a good book about struggling, becoming someone when your lifestyle all your like was crap.

  2. This seems like a cranky person who has their own personal issues to deal with still