The Glass Castle
'I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster. It was just after dark. A blustery March wind whipped the steam coming out of the manholes, and people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up. I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading.
Mom stood fifteen feet away. She had tied rags around her shoulders to keep out the spring chill and was picking through the trash while her dog, a black-and-white terrier mix, played at her feet. Mom's gestures were all familiar - the way she tilted her head and thrust out her lower lip when studying items of potential value that she'd hoisted out of the dumpster, the way her eyes widened with childish glee when she found something she liked. Her long hair was streaked with gray, tangled and matted, and her eyes had sunk deep into their sockets, but still she reminded me of the mom she'd been when I was a kid, swan-diving off cliffs and painting in the desert and reading Shakespeare aloud. Her cheekbones were still high and strong, but the skin was parched and ruddy from all those winters and summers exposed to the elements. To the people walking by, she probably looked like any of the thousands of homeless people in New York City.'
The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Walls about her strange and dysfunctional, yet somewhat happy childhood. I really enjoyed this book, at times intrigued and other times disgusted by Jeannette's parents. She has written her story through the eyes of herself as a child and is a wonderful story teller. Jeannette's Dad is brilliant, teaching the kids physics and geology while they travel around, never living very long in any one place. I would describe their Mom as a hippie-type, never content to settle in any one place either, hating housework and responsibility, and completely embracing her artistic self. She gives the kids her love of reading, teaches them to paint in the desert and to be creative. She doesn't care if they attend school, it's much more fun and rewarding to wander outside at will all day. Dad has a drinking problem and becomes violent when he drinks. One of Jeannette's earliest memories is of her dad trying to run her mom down with the car late at night in the desert. The kids learn, at an early age, to take care of themselves and each other, that they are really all they've got to lean on. As teenagers, they rise above the poverty they were raised in, bettering their lives as they get older, while their parents choose to become homeless as the kids grow-up.
This is an incredible storyand written very well. I'm sure that I'll read this one again someday.