Review of The Glass Castle

Review of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Rating *****

One of my favorite books is Angela's Ashesby Frank McCourt. The paperback version of that book was released eleven years ago and still ranks 1,500 or so on Amazon. This book tells a similar story of poverty and alcoholism. And it is told equally well, which makes this book another favorite of mine.

The book starts out with a scene that immediately casts the author in a negative light. She is riding in a taxi and spots her mother digging through trash. The author hadn't seen her mother in months, but instead of stopping and coming to her aid, she has the taxi turn around and speed off in the opposite direction. Only after reading the book do you understand the reasoning behind that opening scene and realize that it is the perfect opening.

Unlike Angela's Ashes, which is dark and full of hopelessness, this book has a lot of humor. At least in the early chapters. The father is constantly getting into trouble. His way of dealing with these catastrophes was to, as he so eloquently puts it, do the skedaddle. The family does a lot of skedaddling. Despite their many faults, I can relate to both parents. The mother is a dreamer who wants only to create art. The father is a dreamer as well. He has high aspirations and a sharp wit. But for a variety of reasons, neither of them seem capable of carrying through with their plans. As a result of their inability to get and hold jobs, the entire family suffers.

The fact that Frank McCourt and Jeannette Walls were able to overcome so much adversity is testament to the importance of opportunity. I've always believed that anyone can accomplish their goals if given the right opportunities. Sometimes opportunity comes a knockin'. Other times it takes a concerted effort to make your own opportunities. In Jeanette and Frank McCourt's case it was a combination of both. But mostly they made their own luck.

My parents have some of the same traits as Rex and Rose Walls. And like the author, I had a strong desire to get out on my own as soon as possible. In Jeannette's case, she got out before her senior year of high school. She saw at an early age that her parents were not likely to change their ways and her only chance was to break away.

My only complaint about this book is that I felt that the story was unresolved. The author hints at the possibility that the mother had had ownership in land that could have drastically changed all of their lives. But the veracity of that claim is never resolved. And the fact that the book ends with the mother still living as a squatter, confuses the issue even further. At least it did for me.

This book doesn't need a good review from me to gain attention. It's a best seller and deservedly so. I see an opportunity as a result of the books success. Throughout the book Rose is constantly painting and creating art. The author doesn't say whether or not the work is any good or not. But I would be willing to bet that if her work has merit, there would be a market for her work now.

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