I read The Glass Castle – A Memoir last November while still living in North Las Vegas and had a very clear knowledge of the places Jeannette Walls spoke of in it. Her eventual move to Welch, West Virginia, then took her close enough to Pittsburgh where I’d spent eight years. As the author described her surroundings, I mentally moved along with her. This helped me to relate fully to this book. But that's where the similarities ended.
This comes about as close as you’re going to get into the lives of white trailer trash, yet it is an intriguing story that kept me with it to the end. It took only the first few pages and I was hooked. After the next 20, I was somewhat unbelieving, yet still captivated. As I turned each page I wanted to dislike this tale of dysfunction at its worst and family survival at its best, but I kept reading.
However, having said that, there are blaring signs that the author embellished the telling of this story. The very lack of emotion as she relates more poignant moments suggests she’s taken a lot of poetic license in writing this book. It gave me that impression anyway. Telling of living in a small building without utilities through a winter and the building sliding down the mountainside — no feelings on that; it just happened. Or children coming by their home and taunting and calling out bad things; she didn’t have any feelings about this either, it seems.
I recall as a kid that I was upset if I even imagined someone doing that, but if they’d actually done it, I’m sure I’d have felt many things. And certainly if I was going to write a book on my life, I would take that opportunity to tell how I felt.
The author relates how hard it was to get through years of hunger, but never once describes how she felt at the time, i.e."‘my stomach hurt and I felt weak." Or, "I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep because my stomach was empty." These omissions, together with the author being able to quote verbatim whole conversations and dialogue from her earliest childhood, added to my disbelief. Can she possibly remember things that took place so long ago in such detail? There seems to be much fictionalizing along with her "memories." Perhaps she is her father’s daughter after all.
Which brings me to one more question. She relates her father was a prolific storyteller and was always scribbling down his thoughts. Then later on, her mother finds all these stories written down. Yet no publishing? No excerpts?
And, where are the photos? I know not all books are published with photos in them, but this is a memoir and Jeannette tells us there were pictures of them as dirty kids in the desert. Not even one on the book jacket?
The hardest part to swallow though, is that today she is married to writer John Taylor and currently working in New York City as a gossip columnist with MSNBC.com. She has also appeared regularly on television, including the Today Show, CNN, and PrimeTimeLive. She is enjoying a very privileged life today, yet her mother lives in destitution in the same city and she’s allowing her to live this way. Allowing her spiritual freedom? Really.
I wish Ms. Walls had been honest and titled her book “The highly fictionalized, loosely based memoir of my life”. Then I’d feel much better about calling it a biography.Powered by Sidelines