Book review of Jeannette Wall’s ‘The Glass Castle’

I re-read Jeannette Wall’s ‘The Glass Castle’ this week, after reading a weaker book about a dysfunctional household. I wanted to remind myself what good looks like and try to document what makes for a great family history.
In a word: Love. As sad as the Wall family saga is, Ms. Wall captures all the foibles and despicable behaviour with eyes that see with love. Showing the failures of her parents to provide for even the most basic needs of their children explores the needs of those dysfunction adults, and the probable trauma they had endured themselves.
There are many moments of laugh out loud humour in ‘The Glass Castle’. There is a lot of painful living documented here, but the energy and life force of the author and her siblings never allows the narrative to become too depressing. We are rooting for them.
The love of learning, reading, and the damn hard work the children exhibit is inspiring. The way the three oldest kids stick together is awesome. They are a team, a clan, and together they are invincible. Team work gets them out of Virginia and all the way to Manhattan.
There is a pathos to ‘The Glass Castle’, and too often books like this become dissociated in the minds and hearts of the reader. It becomes a bus tour through the part of town you would never want to live in. But Ms.Wall keeps the reader involved and emotionally connected throughout. We experience the trials with little ‘Mountain Goat’, feel her hurts and losses, and share the elation of her victories. And that, I believe, is why we read. We want to experience these things, know what it really feels like to live in a house with no heat or plumbing, to root through a garbage can for your only meal of the day, and to find your calling at a high school newspaper. The reader experiences life with Jeannette, with the luxury of setting down the book and going into the kitchen for a warm dinner.
This is a wonderful book. The world is indebted to Ms.Wall for having the courage and heart to share it with us.