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The Glass Castle: A Memoir


The Glass Castle: A Memoir Cover

ISBN13: 9780743247542
ISBN10: 074324754x
Condition: Standard
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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?

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Average customer rating based on 54 comments:

cerabe1, April 28, 2015 (view all comments by cerabe1)
I normally shy away from memoirs of dysfunctional families - after all, those are all families with more than one person in it (a description that is uncannily accurate if you think about it). But Jeannette Walls' portrayal of life with her uber-bohemian parents and confused siblings is not morbid or self-pitying. Instead, it's a fascinating peek into the unconventional unbringing that led Walls to her career in journalism and a stirring account of her love for her parents, especially her mother.
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Colorado Jess, November 11, 2014 (view all comments by Colorado Jess)
This book will shock and amaze you. Not only is it like no other story of a family living on the edge of society but it is true!
The author makes it out of poverty and shares her shocking story.
The book Jeannette Walls wrote after this is actually chronologically before "The Glass Castle". Entitled " Half-Broke Horses" it too will hold you spellbound in disbellef.
I counted my blessings after reading these!
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dick, October 21, 2014 (view all comments by dick)
this is a really fantastic book in a variety of ways-it should be mandatory reading for all sociologists, inter alia!
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Product Details

Walls, Jeannette
Scribner Book Company
Adult Children of Alcoholics
Homeless persons
Entertainment & Performing Arts - Television Personalities
Childhood Memoir
Personal Memoirs
Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Dysfunctional Families
Problem families -- United States.
Children of alcoholics -- United States.
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
January 2006
Grade Level:
8 x 5.25 in 9.38 oz

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The Glass Castle: A Memoir Used Trade Paper
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Product details 304 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9780743247542 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Walls has joined the company of writers such as Mary Karr and Frank McCourt who have been able to transform their sad memories into fine art."
"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."
"Review" by , "Memoirs are our modern fairy tales....The autobiographer is faced with the daunting challenge of attempting to understand, forgive, and even love the witch....Readers will marvel at the intelligence and resilience of the Walls kids."
"Review" by , "The Glass Castle is nothing short of spectacular."
"Synopsis" by , “Nothing short of spectacular” (Entertainment Weekly), The Glass Castle is the bestselling, critically acclaimed, highly publicized, and celebrated memoir by Jeannette Walls. Millions of readers have been transformed by Jeannette Walls’s award-winning memoir of resilience amid a deeply dysfunctional childhood. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing and poised to stand the test of time.

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