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The Glass Castle: A Memoir
Synopses & Reviews
Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
From Our Staff:
When Jeannette Walls was four years old, her father threw her into the middle of a deep pond and said, "Sink or swim." This is just one example of the derelict and dangerous childhood created for her by her nomadic, narcissistic mother and brilliant but damaged alcoholic father. Though my heart did break for her and her siblings, Walls mends all with her warmth and compassion throughout.
"Walls's journalistic bare-bones style makes for a chilling, wrenching, incredible testimony of childhood neglect. A pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, thoroughly American story." Kirkus Reviews
"Jeannette Walls has carved a story with precision and grace out of one of the most chaotic, heartbreaking childhoods ever to be set down on the page. This deeply affecting memoir is a triumph in every possible way, and it does what all good books should: it affirms our faith in the human spirit." Dani Shapiro, author of Family History
"The Glass Castle is the saga of the restless, indomitable Walls family, led by a grand eccentric and his tempestuous artist wife. Jeannette Walls has survived poverty, fires, and near starvation to triumph. She has written this amazing tale with honesty and love." Patricia Bosworth, author of Anything Your Little Heart Desires and Diane Arbus: A Biography
"Just read the first pages of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and I defy you not to go on. It's funny and sad and quirky and loving. I was incredibly touched by it." Dominick Dunne, author of The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper
In the tradition of Mary Karr's The Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shouting, Jeannette Walls has written a stunning and life-affirming memoir about surviving a willfully impoverished, eccentric and severely misguided family.
A gorgeous, moving memoir of how one of America's most innovative and respected journalists found his voice by coming to terms with a painful past.
Monica Wood's moving memoir of the season in 1963 Mexico, Maine, as she, her mother, and her three sisters healed after the loss of their mill-worker father and then the nation's loss of its handsome young Catholic president.
1963, Mexico, Maine. The Wood family is much like its close, Catholic, immigrant neighbors, all dependent on a fathers wages from the Oxford Paper Company. Until the sudden death of Dad, when Mum and the four closely connected Wood girls are set adrift. Funny and to-the-bone moving, When We Were the Kennedys is the story of how this family saves itself, at first by depending on Father Bob, Mums youngest brother, a charismatic Catholic priest who feels his new responsibilities deeply. And then, as the nation is shocked by the loss of its handsome Catholic president, the televised grace of Jackie Kennedy—she too a Catholic widow with young children—galvanizes Mum to set off on an unprecedented family road trip to Washington, D.C., to do some rescuing of her own. An indelible story of how family and nation, each shocked by the unimaginable, exchange one identity for another.
“Monica Wood has written a gorgeous, gripping memoir. I dont know that Ive ever pulled so hard for a family.”—Michael Paterniti, author of Driving Mr. Albert
A gorgeous, moving memoir of how one of America's most innovative and respected journalists found his voice by coming to terms with a painful past
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow mines the compelling poetry of the out-of-time African-American Louisiana town where he grew up — a place where slavery's legacy felt astonishingly close, reverberating in the elders' stories and in the near-constant wash of violence.
Blow's attachment to his mother — a fiercely driven woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, a job plucking poultry at a nearby factory, a soon-to-be-ex husband, and a love of newspapers and learning — cannot protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It's damage that triggers years of anger and searing self-questioning.
Finally, Blow escapes to a nearby state university, where he joins a black fraternity after a passage of brutal hazing, and then enters a world of racial and sexual privilege that feels like everything he's ever needed and wanted, until he's called upon, himself, to become the one perpetuating the shocking abuse.
A powerfully redemptive memoir that both fits the tradition of African-American storytelling from the South, and gives it an indelible new slant.
About the Author
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
Table of Contents
Prologue: My Mexico xiii
1. Morning 1
2. Wake 21
3. Hiding 35
4. Explorers 55
5. Too Much Stairs 77
6. Paper 97
7. Three Vanillas 111
8. Offer It Up 123
9. The Mystery of the Missing Man 137
10. Just Nervous 149
11. Widows Instructions 165
12. Our Nations Capital 179
13. Anniversary 199
14. I Hear Music 213
Epilogue: New Page 223
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Biography » General