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The Glass Castle: A Memoir

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Reading Group Guide

A #1 BookSense Reading Group Pick!

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Reading Group Guide

1. Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest?

2. Discuss the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn't believe he'll ever build it? (p. 238).

3. The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: "You're safe now" (p. 14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?

4. Rex Walls often asked his children, "Have I ever let you down?" Why was this question (and the required "No, Dad" response) so important for him — and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?

5. Jeannette's mother insists that, no matter what, "life with your father was never boring" (p. 288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?

6. Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an "excitement addict"? (p. 93).

7. Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how do you think that Walls achieved that effect?

8 Describe Jeannette's relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another's lives.

9. In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?

10. The two major pieces of the memoir — one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia — feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family — and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book's tone?

11. Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why do you think this is?

12. What character traits — both good and bad — do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette's life?

13. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?

14. Like Mary Karr's Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shoutin', Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle tells the story of a wildly original (and wildly dysfunctional) family with humor and compassion. Were their other comparable memoirs that came to mind? What distinguishes this book?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

Annie Oaklee, September 1, 2009 (view all comments by Annie Oaklee)
How can this be a heartbreaking and heartwarming story at the same time? Jeanette Walls skillfully makes it so. Jeanette is a survivor and has told a true story that can, at times, be shocking but is still full of love.
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(4 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
Luigi, December 22, 2008 (view all comments by Luigi)
The remarkable autobiography of a girl who grew up in extreme poverty and survived. Her alcoholic father and free spirited (if not emotionally disturbed) mother managed to neglect her and her siblings while justifying their conduct with believable words of homely wisdom. Jeannette succeeded while her mother still lives on the streets of New York. You may find yourself dumbfounded by the life of this vagabond family, but you will be glad you read this book. For more, go on www.youtube.com and search for "Glass Castle." You will find a video of the author and her mother.
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(10 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
wmcarmichael, April 24, 2007 (view all comments by wmcarmichael)
Such an amazing story of such hard times, and the focus of a child, I loved reading this book!
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(11 of 22 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743247535
Subtitle:
A Memoir
Publisher:
Scribner
Author:
Walls, Jeannette
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Dysfunctional Families
Subject:
Adult Children of Alcoholics
Subject:
Homeless persons
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts - Television Personalities
Subject:
Poor
Subject:
Childhood Memoir
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Subject:
Problem families -- United States.
Subject:
Children of alcoholics -- United States.
Copyright:
Publication Date:
March 2005
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 19.215 oz

Related Subjects

Biography » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Health and Self-Help » Recovery and Addiction » General
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Memoirs
History and Social Science » Sociology » Poverty

The Glass Castle: A Memoir
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 304 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743247535 Reviews:
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , 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.
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