The Glass Castle

Book review by Deane Barker
tags: biography
2006
Jeannette Walls
288
9/10

A stunning memoir of a dysfunctional childhood. Jeannette’s parents weren’t actively abusive, but they were passively abusive in the sense that they had no personal responsibility, and they never gave any regard to holding down jobs and providing basic care to their children.

In retrospect (and in interviews the author has given since the book was published), it’s clear that her father was mentally ill, in addition to having incurable alcoholism. And her mother is completely co-dependent, and lives in a fantasy world. Her parents are addicted to each other and refuse to hold anyone accountable for anything.

The book is difficult to read in places. I had a feeling of impending doom whenever I picked it up, because I wasn’t sure just how bad this girl’s life was going to get. But my teenage daughter was assigned it for a summer reading project, so I powered through it.

I’m glad I did. The book is ultimately triumphant, and it’s a good look at the ties that bind us to our families. It reminded me deeply of Tara Westover’s masterpiece Educated.

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