Are the parents in this family free spirits, criminally negligent, or mentally ill? A case could be made for any of these three labels. The story is bearable to read only because we know the author survived to adulthood to become a successful writer and write the book being read. Nevertheless, it's a painful story to read. And it’s more painful to think that there are plenty of parents in this world with poor parenting skills. I suppose a case could be made that the parents in this story were much better than the worst--they at least instilled in their children the love of reading and learning. And the family did remain intact, sort of--the father stayed with the family--but his alcoholic habits made matters worse. Their mother seemed to find joy in living the wandering bohemian life of a starving artist, and the father had the ability to get jobs, but couldn't keep them for more than several months. Meanwhile, the four children formed their own support group together facing the world.
There's a lot of potential discussion material here on the issue of why some children rise above their family circumstances and others don't. Not all of the four children in this family were able to escape the family's poverty/mental illness/malaise in the end. To avoid being a spoiler, I'll not say more about how many or which ones. There are also plenty of examples in this story of how destructive alcoholism can be.
If I had the opportunity I would ask the author the following questions:
1. Should children who are in the position she was growing up be taken away from their parents and placed in foster homes?
2. In what ways would her life had been different had she had been the only child in the family?
3. If their family hadn't experienced brief interludes of normalcy, would she and her siblings have had the vision to escape their world of poverty?
4. Was her family’s interest in reading books a product of their parent’s example, or was it a product of the native intelligence of the children?
5. Have other members of her family read this book? Are their memories different from her descriptions?
This is a well written memoir by a good writer. I found it to be an interesting read.
The following is a short review of this book from the 2013 PageADay Book Lover's Calendar:
While the success of some books might perplex you, there are others for which bestsellerdom is gratifying proof that there is justice in this world. This radiant memoir most definitely falls into the latter category. It will leave you laughing, crying, and wishing you could forget it so you could read it all over again as if for the first time. Read the first sentence, and there will be no turning back.THE GLASS CASTLE
, by Jeannette Walls (2005; Scribner, 2006)