As I boldly stated in the previous newsletter article, The Glass Castle is my favorite memoir. With the movie coming out this month, it seemed fitting to recommend it for you to read in my August Book Review. I’m certainly not alone in celebrating the book and Jeannette Walls’ writing; The Glass Castle spent more than seven years on The New York Times bestseller list and has sold several million copies, while Entertainment Weekly once called author Jeanette Walls, “one of the world’s most gifted storytellers.”
In The Glass Castle, Walls tells the story about her childhood, growing up with her three siblings, living like nomads with their drunk, but brilliant and charismatic father and their “excitement addict” mother. Out of money, they head to a mining town in West Virginia, where the children learn to fend for themselves until they manage to leave home to forge their own successful paths in life, against all odds.
Walls manages to temper her difficult memories with what is clearly deep affection for her family and appreciation for how they helped make her what she is. The Glass Castle isn’t mired in resentment, disgust, or anger as one might think. It is a memoir about resilience and redemption, forgiveness and generosity.
I love this Jeannette Walls quote from a Bookpage interview with the author about another of her books, Half Broke Horses, that I found relevant to all of us trying to tell our life stories:
When I was on book tour,” she remembers, “readers of The Glass Castle would often ask me why, with a college education, my mother would choose the life she did. At the time I didn’t know the answer. But writing about your parents and your ancestors is like going into intensive therapy. You really get at the roots. I now see that the time when she was growing up on the ranch without electricity and running water was the idyllic time of my mother’s life. She’s always tried to recreate it, the wildness and lack of discipline. Her life is very much a search for that freedom she had as a child.
Writing our life stories about our parents and our ancestors, or any sort of hardship in our lives, certainly is like going into intensive therapy. I know many of you have discovered that for yourselves. Needless to say, I highly recommend you read this book and, if you do, please let me know what you learned from it about writing effective and moving memoir. Or, feel free to comment below and tell us how your own writing has helped you “get at the roots.”
If you’d like to read a New York Times book review about The Glass Castle, click here.