“I was on fire.” With these three haunting words, Walls truly begins her adventure. Well how can you not read more after that? When you think of your earliest memory, were you on fire? Because I wasn’t. I think mine would be going to some pumpkin patch with my parents. For the next several pages, Walls recalls vividly what happens after this frightful event and I’m just sitting there wondering how do you remember something so clearly (no matter how traumatic) back from when you were three? I was hooked.
Soon the reader is introduced to Jeannette’s eccentric parents Rose Mary and Rex Walls, her brother Brian, sister Lori, and later another sister, Maureen. Oh the adventures they have!
It’s hard to tell whether the Walls parents are actually good parents. Their actions would suggest absolutely not. However, the way they are viewed through the young Jeannette’s (aka Mountain Goat) eyes is that they are heroes that can truly do no wrong. They always make up for their mistakes. Jeannette’s innocence and faith is so strong in the beginning of the story that you almost hate to disbelieve her. The way she sees the world is so fresh and good that it makes it you want to forget all the bad that happens in the world.
Rex Walls is an inventor and a dreamer. He fills his children’s minds with possibilities that “society” deems unworthy. The title even originated from one of his inventions that he calls the Glass Castle, which is essentially a big house that he planned on building in the desert that would be made totally out of glass. It would have solar cells that would catch the sun’s rays that then would be converted into electricity. There would even be its own water purification system. To Walls and her siblings, this was a dream that they all shared and not a fantasy. But to the reader how else does it appear other than a story from a fairytale?
This is what the Walls children lives were like. Full of fantastic promises and never knowing how bad off the family actually was. They never truly had a home of their own and constantly moved form place to place. It is the oldest child Lori who asks the question if moving around so much makes sense. Being the oldest, she begins to see the truth behind the matter before our narrator does.
Despite all the things they don’t have, the Walls children are brilliant. When they are entered into school systems, they actually are moved up grade levels because they have are surpassed the other children. There is no doubt that both Rex and his wife are remarkably intelligent, even geniuses, but how they go about life is… unorthodox to say the least.
As Walls grows, so does her insight on the world around her and more importantly, her parents. Domestic violence as her father’s alcohol abuse is worsened alerts the reader that all is not as it appears to be despite what is being said.
I’m sure that not one of us could imagine what life would have been like growing up with these people. One of the most incredible aspects of Walls’s story is her voice as a narrator. She recaptures her voice of the child she once was with such perfection, it would seem that a child actually is narrating the story. Yet during the hardships that the young Jeannette is going through, my mind keeps slipping back to the very beginning where we meet Jeannette in a cab in New York City seeing her mother rummage through a garbage can and I keep asking myself: where and when will these two worlds collide?
Its no surprise that the last part of the book is called “Thanksgiving.” Jeannette Walls summarizes the last portion of her life as a hopeful future while looking at her past and seeing how it has shaped the woman she has become. This book was an amazing read, mostly due to the fact that its based on true events. Jeannette’s own battles have inspired me to work hard for the future I want. If you pick up The Glass Castle you are in for a wonderful treat, but I’m warning you, it will reck havoc with your emotions.