Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Purchased through my account (ok, so it's not a *total* book diet), this has been on my list to read for a while. I just finished it and literally am torn on what I thought of it.

On one hand, Walls describes a self-induced poverty, with parents who never wanted to act like parents, who let the kids raise them. Some of the acts of the parents were pretty heinous and made me angry, such as when the dad, Rex, stole money from the kids for liquor and cigarettes. When the family moved to West Virginia, it was the kids who found jobs and the parents who wanted to do whatever they wanted and that never included work. They lived in squalor and poverty.

On the other hand, it's clear from the book that the parents loved their children. When they couldn't afford Christmas gifts, the dad would take the kids out into the desert backyard and tell them they could each have a star. Whichever star they wanted out of the sky. Jeannette chose Venus. Clearly, something in the raising of the kids went ok, because they moved on, went to college and got careers.

The parents chose to be homeless in New York while the kids were there working and attending school - just so they could still be a family.

I think the most frustrating part, for me, was finding out that the mom had property in Texas worth millions. If they had compromised just a little, the Walls family would not have been subjected to the poverty they lived in. But who knows how that would have changed the kids.

A complicated but very good book. How do you second guess the life that made you who you are?
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