Pocket Books USA, 2007

Fr. 12.80

Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle

Although at times hard to believe, this is the story of Jeannette Walls’s childhood. Together with her alcoholic father, her self-proclaimed artist mother and three siblings, she grows up in different places from California to West Virginia, often without running water and electricity. Sometimes the children have to sleep in cardboard boxes and are forced to root through the garbage for food because the refrigerator at home is empty. Through all those years, Jeannette’s father keeps planning to build a house made of glass and powered by solar energy. Predictably, the project of the glass castle is never realized, but it represents the family’s hope for a better future, which is kept up even through the worst times. It is deeply remarkable how Jeannette and her siblings cope with the hardships of their childhood, and how close they are drawn together through their common past. The story is told with absolutely no trace of self-pity. Still, it has touched me to the very core, considering that this is no fiction but a real story. Last but not least, it must be mentioned that however irresponsible many of their actions are, the Walls parents always give their children the feeling of being loved. Consequently, the book leaves us with very mixed feelings towards the parents. One Christmas, when there is no money to buy presents, Jeannette’s father takes his children out into the desert and tells them to choose a star as a present. The Walls children might have grown up in considerable poverty and neglect, but who else has ever received a star as a Christmas present?

Seraina Nufer, October 2009