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Recommened: "The Glass Castle" by Jeanette Wallis - A Book Review

Updated on April 28, 2013

An Interesting Book: The Glass Castle

I just finished an enjoyable book, "The Glass Castle". If you enjoy reading real-life stories, this is one not to miss. It has heart.

It is a personal memoir of the author, Jeannette Walls, who recounts in a non-judgemental way, about her harrowing , bittersweet and often poverty-stricken childhood growing up with two emotionally immature, erratic and irresponsible parents, who never gave up on the American dream that they would strike it rich one day.

Instead, a lifetime was spent chasing rainbows, ignoring the fact there were hungry children to feed and the obvious, – there was never going to be any riches…not from their ideas, anyway.

Good reading
Good reading

Not the Ideal American Parents

Yet, the book holds an enduring sense of affection for these wayward and eccentric parents, who by their neglect, taught self-sufficiency, not by example, but rather for the need to survive; love, from each other, as the siblings watched the other’s back, and a rich imagination from the father, who promised one day to build them a glass castle, which they believed... for a long while.

Jeannette's parents, Rex and Rose Mary Wall’s wedding photograph graces the inside of the book. They make a handsome, normal looking couple full of promise. Indeed, they managed a successful marriage, but it was an unorthodox venture to the last day.

They fought; at one point the children go outside to play so the neighbors would think nothing was going on, despite the fact their parent's yelling could be heard down the street. At one point during the evening, the mother ends up dangling outside of the upstairs window, while her husband is yelling , “I did not push her”. Eventually, the mother climbs back in and the parents make up, much to everyone's relief, as life returns to as normal as it gets.

The parents have an education, Rose Mary is a qualified teacher, but she feels she is an "artist" and spends her life painting pictures rather than taking care of her children. Holding a job is something she loathes and considers unecessary. Child-care is not her specialty either, her excuse is the children must learn to be self-sufficient. Rex, the father, an electrician and self-taught expert on a variety of subjects has trouble being employed. He is forever hatching "get rich" schemes to avoid regular work. Sometimes they have money when Rose Mary decides to work, which she hates with a passion or when Rex is employed. Invariably, the money is squandered on unnecessary luxuries and the children are left hungry.

The behaviour of the parents is bizarre and often bordering on insane, but when one is a child, there is nothing to compare to. One makes the best of the situation.

Rex Wallis is always inventing and looking for research money for is the "Prospector", a device that will locate gold. As young children, the siblings believe their father and support him, but as the years go by it becomes painfully obvious, the Prospector is just a flight of fancy as are other equally far fetched ideas. They lose interest as they mature and discover the reality of their lives. The drive to find a better life for themselves is what saves the children in the end.

You would think a book such as this would be depressing. It isn’t. While you can be exasperated at the total selfishness and silliness of the parents, you have to cheer at the children for their heart.

It goes to show, poverty isn’t necessarily a dead end. For some, that have the right spark, the initiative and sometimes just a little break, the world can be their oyster. Poverty is a powerful motivator for some.

The Walls did succeed after all, but in a way the parent’s never envisioned.

Alternately, Jeanette Wallis makes us chuckle at the engaging father that could make his children believe every word he uttered, no matter how preposterous the situation. Jeanette was her father’s favorite child. On one of her birthday's,when there was no money for gifts, he gave her the planet Venus as her own.

Originally published in 2005 as a hardcover, it has been out in paperback since 2006 and now is also available as a Kindle edition.

"The Glass Castle" from Amazon

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Submit a Comment

  • Scribenet profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    It is an inspiring read, especially when you read about the parents. I won't do a spoiler alert by saying more, but I was in awe. The book is also written very well so I sort of read it from start to finish as quickly as possible because I enjoyed her writing style.

  • CraftytotheCore profile image


    5 years ago

    This sounds very interesting! I believe people coming from poverty have better chances to succeed. What I mean by that is, my mother had me when she was a teenager and we were dirt poor until I moved in with other relatives. I knew the only way out of that was to better myself. No one was going to do it for me. It's a drive within us. Determination can take us to far places.

  • Scribenet profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thank you, ytsenoh!

    It is a great story of conquering adversity that is certain. I had the feeling that perhaps the youngest, Maureen, did not fare so well since she had learned to rely on the pity of others, while her siblings learned to be self-sufficient.

    Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. It makes me admire the human spirit and I realize... how we choose to live our lives is always our own choice! Ms Walls chose to see the good and she made her own good life!

    Thank you for your comments...very much appreciated!

  • ytsenoh profile image


    6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

    This book is definitely going on my best Top 10 list. It's one of the best memoirs I've read. Ms. Walls performed very well with her language and certainly rose above all shame to tell the world about her growing up environment as well as creating a successful life for herself, as did her siblings. Although, I would like to know what happened to the youngest sibling, Maureen, who ended up moving to California. I highly recommend this book.

  • Scribenet profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Thanks arusho. The book is a testamony to the spirit of the author; she grew up in unbelievable poverty with parents who were decidedly not good parents, yet she mangaged to turn out just fine and has a spirit I wish we all could own, including forgiveness and acceptance of her parents. :)

  • arusho profile image


    7 years ago from University Place, Wa.

    Sounds like a good read, thanks for the review!

  • Scribenet profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi drbj! The subject matter might seem depressing, but Jeannette's plucky spirit, humor and her resourcefulness sees her and her siblings through. It is heartwarming!

    Hope you enjoy it as I did! Thanks for commenting! Cheers!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    7 years ago from south Florida

    What a coincidence, Scribenet. A friend gave me a copy of this book recently and I read several chapters so far. You gave me the incentive to pick it up and finish. Great review.

  • Scribenet profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi Jools! If you liked my descriptio, you will love the book! It is a book that stays with you and is very hard to put down!

    Thanks for commenting! Cheers!

  • Jools99 profile image

    Jools Hogg 

    7 years ago from North-East UK

    I haven't read this but your review makes me want to read it. I will see if I can download it onto my Kindle. Interesting review, voted up.

  • Scribenet profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Hi ahostagesituation! Glad to know, you enjoyed the book as well.

    You are correct, it would be difficult to makeup those parents...and yes, it is nice to know, other families have their characters as

    Thanks for commenting. Cheers!

  • ahostagesituation profile image


    7 years ago

    Read this book on a recommendation and I loved it. The Dad was a character you just couldn't make up, and the mother too! I love real life stories. I love finding out more people outside of my family are crazy as well!


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