Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls



I expected to like this. I didn’t expect to love it. This book is special, guys.

Jeannette Walls was an NYC gossip-columnist hiding a very big secret: she grew up in extreme poverty. Despite the fact that Jeannette and her siblings grew up to be well-off, their homeless parents were living on the streets just a few blocks away from her luxury home. This is where the memoir opens.

We then follow Jeannettte through her childhood, beginning at age 3 when she almost died from severe burns she acquired while cooking hotdogs on the stove with her mother’s permission. Obviously after reading this I was prepared to hate Jeannette’s parents. But instead Ms. Walls urges her readers to see both her alcoholic father and her irresponsible, bipolar mother the way she saw them—deeply flawed but charismatic and lovable despite putting their children in extreme danger time after time after time. There was one incident in particular when I decided, this is it, I have no more sympathy left for Rex Walls. He hurt Jeannette in a way that made me have to stop reading this book and pick up some fluffy puppy story for a few minutes. (I’m a children’s librarian, surrounded by fluffy puppy books while at work.) But then towards the end when *spoiler-spoiler,* I still wept a little for Rex. Why?? Because in his life, he’d been a victim just as much as he’d been a predator.

The Glass Castle is a very personal story, obviously. It’s a fascinating insight into one, strange family. But it’ll also make you think about the criminals, addicts, and homeless people you see on TV and meet on the street everyday. Chances are you have your own preconceptions of how these people have lived and how they were raised. We all do. The Glass Castle proves that each one of those criminals, addicts, and homeless people have a unique story to tell. You as a liberal might believe that the homeless ended up homeless because the government failed them. Your conservative friend might say that the homeless have failed themselves. You could both be wrong.

There has long been a film adaptation in the works. I hope it gets made someday. For now, Brie Larson is going to play Jeannette and Rex will be portrayed by Woody Harrelson. Both are great choices…although I imagined Rex as Matthew McConaughey through the entire book. I hope when and if the film is made it’s made well. In the right hands it could be phenomenal.


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