Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle: A Memoir is a book rife with the experiences of a woman who grew up with two parents who were, from this layperson's view, certainly mentally ill. In the tradition of Frank McCourt, Walls shares her tale of growing up in this family, where there is certainly no fun in dysfunctional.::: The Artist and the Alcoholic :::Walls' story begins in the present, seeing her mother, a homeless person, rooting through a dumpster. The contrast between Walls, living in a Park Avenue apartment and reporting on celebrity gossip, and her mother is meant to startle, and yet it doesn't quite prepare you for the events to come: four children, often hungry, almost always dirty, growing up with parents for whom the least abusive behavior is neglect, and the most abusive is putting their children in harm's way to get money or food or clothes. Frequent moves to new hovels are the norm for Walls' family, and the first event she relates is setting her clothes on fire while boiling hot dogs at the age of three.The Glass Castle: A Memoir takes us through Walls' childhood with a mother who refuses to take responsibility for the family, acting much like a spoiled toddler in many instances, a father with grand plans but a drinking problem that sucks up his ambition as well as any paycheck, and four children essentially left to raise themselves as well as care for their parents.::: The Cynical View :::After the mind-boggling revelations of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, I think many readers now wonder how much of a memoir is "embellished." Perhaps I'm naive, or perhaps as a mother I can't imagine children growing up in such an environment, but Walls' memoir left me with no emotion at all. She describes events as if they happened to someone else, almost with a shrug, as if it's an everyday occurrence for a woman to go from a house in West Virginia with no indoor plumbing to college at Barnard, and on to become a successful reporter.Because of this detachment, and the absence of interference from outside the family, the story is difficult to believe. How could a child burned so badly that she required hospitalization for six weeks before her parents took off with her, have no one investigate why a three-year-old was cooking? How could children go to school in filthy clothes with no lunch and have no one report the neglect?I wanted to believe Walls, and admire her perseverance to come so far from so little, and yet the feeling that the story was being told by an uninvolved third party left me uninvolved as well. If it is true, you have to admire her tenacity, but you are left wondering what the psychological impact was, and exactly how a horrifying beginning turned into such a successful ending.This review previously published at Epinions:

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