Thursday, January 9, 2014

Some Family Drama Is Too Much

Jeannette Walls has two loving parents and three lovable siblings. She enjoys adventure, is accustomed to change, and is very independent. Sounds normal. However, this family drama is not to hard to see. Rex and Rose Mary Walls are very loving, however very impulsive. Rex is an alcoholic, Rose Mary a starving artist, and both seem to get "bored" with the common things in life; such as living in one place for more than a month's time. Because of their decision making, Jeannette and her siblings are used to traveling. They are used to not having food in the house and not being able to eat for days. They are used to being on their own and having to rely on each other.
Throughout this autobiography, Jeannette goes through her family turmoil. One cannot help but be heartbroken as Walls goes through her broken and impoverished childhood, however, at the end of the novel there is a warm feeling because however horrible her experiences were, they truly shaped her into the woman she soon became.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was one of the few non-fiction books I actually enjoyed. There were sections of this book that made me want to cry because of the blatant neglect of her parents. Growing up in a warm family environment where my parents would rather die than let my siblings and I go without food or shelter, it was often very disturbing to know that these experiences Walls discusses are real. Her father often disappeared for days, only to return drunk and unrealistic. He stole money from strangers, but also from his two daughters who were hoping to save up for a better life. There was even one section where Jeannette was in danger of being sexually assaulted while accompanying her father to a bar, but he disregarded her screams for his drink and gambling. Her mother's dreams of becoming an artist are completely far fetched, but often get in the way of her parenting. Painting overshadows putting food on the table  for her four kids, bathing and getting new clean clothes is secondary, and with every horrible experience, she always has a positive outlook, even if it is hopeless.
As ghastly as the stories were, the reader never gets a sense that Jeannette hated her parents. In fact, it seems she is thanking them with this novel. Without their inability to parent in a warm and responsible manner, Walls would never have had the courage to embark on her own journey after high school. There were many times when I was more angry for her, but after finishing the novel, I realized that her experiences truly did transform her. Although her siblings and her did not come out sparkly clean and completely changed, each had their own separate journey, their own mountain to climb, and it was thanks to their parents they had that opportunity.
I would recommend this story; as angry as you may get, the overall feeling this piece gives is great. There are some slower parts as the story continues, but the end result is always the same. At one point, your anger turns to heartbreak, then you just root for the kids to make it through. Everyone needs a story about overcoming obstacles, and this is it.