The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist’s journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, ‘brilliant’ but alcoholic parents.
At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the ‘mundane, middle class existence’ she had always craved. In her apartment, overlooked by ‘a portrait of someone else’s ancestor’ she recounts poignant remembered images of star watching with her father, juxtaposed with recollections of irregular meals, accidents and police-car chases and reveals her complex feelings of shame, guilt, pity and pride toward her parents.
This was a novel that drew so much discussion. There were so many instances of neglect, abuse and cruelty and yet, at the core, the siblings supported each other showing resilience and intelligence.
It is a real testament to human spirit, family relationships and survival. It also highlights the influence a good teacher can have and the ‘ripple effect’ that positive influence can make.
Read by the MJ Readers 9/10