Before the film adaptation’s release, here’s some insight into Jeannette Walls’ modern classic The Glass Castle.
Spending another week on The New York Times’ Bestseller List and on it’s way to theatres, The Glass Castle continues to be a memoir that holds the public’s attention. If for some reason you managed to escape the media storm surrounding the movie, Glass Castle is the memoir of Jeannette Walls, currently a successful writer and journalist in New York, but once a girl living a rootless lifestyle with two erratic parents. Glass Castle has been out since 2005, but I find when a book holds the public’s attention for this long without fanfare and merchandise of midnight releases and chest tattoos, it’s important to ask why.
The Glass Castle is a book I recommend to anyone who usually has trouble with denser books. Walls is a good writer: the text isn’t a swamp, and the pacing actually works, which if you are a reader of nonfiction, you know that slow, jumpy pacing usually can make what was once an interesting story into a new kind of hell. So, for a nonfiction work, Glass Castle is a quick read, which is why the book may have become particularly popular with new readers.
The story, on the other hand, is incredibly deep and personal, and I think it is ultimately Walls’ relationship with her family, particularly her father, that makes the story so memorable. When we write stories about ourselves, I think people tend to either 1) paint characters as exaggerated versions which takes away from the validity of the story or 2) not insult anyone, which has never once worked in a story so stop doing it. Walls does neither, as far as I can tell. The story is believable because while her parents are crazy and constantly making terrible choices, they are still people. They still care about their children, they still are trying at times. That’s the thing people seem to forget about when writing about abusive childhoods, it’s not around the clock abuse and neglect; there is love and laughter sometimes. Walls loves her family, and is very close with her father, as he shows her the wonders of nature and imagination. She loves and even respects her father, despite his drinking. It is this unflinching look at love that made this book important.
Finally, this book is such a strong slap in the face to so many people about poverty. The Walls family flips between living in and out of multiple homes. Sometimes, the family is flushed with cash, and other times, it doesn’t have enough to eat. Walls writes about the real face of an American nomad family and how poverty can affect the way people treat us.
It is my hope that the film adaption of Glass Castle keeps these aspects: good pacing, a clear understanding of story and love in the face of turmoil and unstable ground. I’m nervous, but hopeful. (Also, Woody Harrelson stars as Walls’s dad, and I really hope that is as awesome as it sounds). I encourage everyone to read this story.
Eirini Melena Karoutsos