I am always amazed by the ability of some children to remain resilient despite an outwardly miserable home-life. I am astonished by calm and compassionate adults who could be understandably agitated and unkind based on the kind of upbringing they had. I am learning that as long as a child feels loved — and that love may look like love only to him — he can thrive. I think that is the power of familial love. It has the power to award us our identity based on the affection we sense within it and that makes us feel very comfortable in its bounds, however strange they may seem to outsiders.
Jeannette Walls’ poignant memoir, The Glass Castle, explores this theme the way only a memoir can — through the lens of reality. The writing is crisp, unpretentious, and honest. Reading the pages was like living her stange childhood with her, and loving her crazy parents right alongside her even though they failed her and her siblings in about every way they could. An alcoholic father and a bipolar mother form the basis for the Walls’ odd family dynamics, and in the mix,are their four ordinary children who just need to grow up. Every now and then there’d be a tiny glimmer of greatness in one or both of the parents, and you’d almost want to cheer. And then the greatness would disappear, popping in again a few chapters down the road, but only scantily. It was easy to see this is how the author lived her childhood — hoping in between disasters. Perhaps that is how she and others like her survive a dysfunctional family: they possess an extraordinary amount of hope.
This must also be why the book never seems depressing. Ever. Though you want to cry and shout and wring the parents’ necks sometimes, Jeannette never lets you pity her. Hope kept her afloat. Hope keeps her still.
This was a terrific read. You forget you are reading a memoir, the writing is that engaging. It may not be an easy read if you’ve traveled a difficult road to adulthood, but perhaps it might open your eyes to slivers of hope in your own life. Jeannette’s dad once gave her the planet Venus for Christmas when his irresponsible lifestyle left him penniless at the holidays. For a moment there I forgot how mad I was that he was forever neglecting his children. That was an amazing Christmas present. I am sure Jeannette can’t ever look at the night sky without thinkng of that Christmas, among many, when they had no money. Quite a gift.
Highly recommended, folks. Have a great weekend.