After reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, I was strongly reminded of Jeannette Walls’ memoir, The Glass Castle. Not being one to usually read memoirs, The Glass Castle is a magnificent read. Much like Wavy in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Jeannette Walls was also born with very eccentric parents who left a lot to be desired in terms of parenting. Both grew up in extreme poverty and both became care takers of their younger siblings. However, unlike Wavy, Jeannette’s childhood (and adulthood) was very much real.
Jeannette was one of four children born to Rose Mary and Rex Walls. Although her mother was college educated and a teacher, she didn’t see value in working and instead preferred to focus on being an artist and a writer. Her father, although extremely intelligent, worked odd jobs as an electrician or handyman and full time as an alcoholic. Their family would often move around from place to place as her father lost a job or the land-lord kicked them out due to non-payment. Jeanette’s eccentric parents would often frame their moves as “adventures”.
“How many places have we lived?” I asked Lori.
“That depends on what you mean by ‘lived,’” she said. “If you spend one night in some town, did you live there? What about two nights? Or a whole week?”
I thought. “If you unpack all your things,” I said.
We counted eleven places we lived, then we lost track. We couldn’t remember the names of some of the towns or what the houses we had lived in looked like.
Jeannette’s parents were so frivolous with what money they did have when they had it that the children often went without basic necessities.
A little while after we’d moved into the depot, we heard Mom and Dad talking about buying us kids real beds, and we said they shouldn’t do it. We liked our boxes. They made going to bed seem like an adventure. Shortly after we moved into the depot, Mom decided that what we really needed was a piano.
Jeanette’s parents had an uncanny ability to treat life as an adventure and explain away basic needs –not for the sake of the children, as some parents might do to cover up the lack of basic necessities and circumstances of poverty, but because that’s how they chose to live their life.
The nurse declared her severely shortsighted and sent Mom a note saying she needed glasses.
“Nosiree,” Mom said. She didn’t approve of glasses. If you had weak eyes, Mom believed, they needed exercise to get strong. The way she saw it, glasses were like crutches.
Jeanette’s parents didn’t stop at their lack of providing basic needs such as shelter and food, but also protection. In one particular house that they lived in, Jeanette and her siblings would often encounter creepy characters that would look at children as victims. Their house, in particular, was a haven for vagrants as it looked like an abandon house. Because of the lack of air conditioning, her parents would leave the front door of the house unlocked. One night, Jeanette awoke to a stranger running his hands over her private parts. The next day, after telling her Dad (who was out drunk the night of), Jeanette, her brother, and her Dad “went out on a serious Pervert Hunt.”
Our blood up, we searched the streets for hours, but we never did find the guy. I asked Mom and Dad if we should close the doors and windows when we went to sleep. They wouldn’t even consider it. We needed the fresh air, they said and it was essential that we refuse to surrender to fear.
Like All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Glass Castle is chock full of examples of people who have
failed Jeanette. And like Wavy in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, somehow, Jeannette is able to preserve. Her journey is amazing, inspiring, and unbelievable. If you enjoyed reading All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you will most certainly love The Glass Castle, but read it quickly! The Glass Castle has been adapted to a movie which will release in 2017 (date to be determined) starring Brie Larson as Jeannette Walls, Woody Harrelson as Rex, and Naomi Campbell as Rose Mary.
**If you love The Glass Castle, don’t miss out on Jeannette Walls true-life novel about her grandmother, Half-Broke Horses.**