First book review: The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

So this book is the first non-fiction memoir I read and it’s one of my favourites. It follows Walls throughout her childhood, growing up in severe poverty in the United States. Her father has trouble working for other people and her mother would rather pursue her (unsuccessful) art career than take care for her children. Because of this, Walls and her three siblings never have much. As they grow up, they decide they must become independent and pursue a life without their parents.

I adore this book with all my heart and I find it fascinating. As someone who studies poverty and wealth inequities and tries to dispel the stigma around poverty, I found her parents really interesting. Walls talks about how they could have worked: her mom has a teaching degree and her father is a skilled handyman. One of the largest misconceptions around those living in poverty is that they are lazy and don’t want to work. While this is false of most people, it is absolutely true of Walls’ parents. They are both perfectly capable adults who are too lazy to provide for their children. Walls describes a time in her teenage years where her and her older sister force their mom to get a teaching job. Both Walls and her sister make the lesson plans and activities for the class, get their mom up in the morning, and arrange a ride for her to the school, acting more like parents than children.

Walls is a very skilled writer. She is articulate and can describe scenes so vividly that I never had any issue imagining them. She is able to describe not only her feelings and emotions, but also those of her siblings, parents, and peers. She is keenly aware of how her family is viewed by others and can describe this feeling in a way that you understand  how she is affected by it, but also why others feel that way. Walls has a way of blaming her parents without attacking them or sounding entitled.

I would (and do) recommend this book to everyone. It reads like a fiction novel and though it describes the hardships endure by Walls and her family, it is a very easy read. It is mature, thoughtful memoir that will make you examine your life and everything you have. I just really love this book, honestly.


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