The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls tells a true story centered around hardship, defeat, and addiction. Jeannette, her younger siblings Brian and Maureen, and her older sister Lori, learn to live in a world full of unpredictability, poverty, and confusion. Their father, a violent alcoholic, promises their family that he will find gold one day, and build them an amazing home, a glass castle. Throughout the book, he tells his family that they have to do “the skedaddle” because he was always out of a job, and on the run from the police or anyone with the ability to send him to prison. This dynamic caused these four children to grow up on the road; they were always on the move, driving to a new destination, a new house to stay at for the time being.
The Glass Castle portrays a lifestyle that many cannot begin to fathom. A father who is struggling with addiction, who truly cares for his children yet fails to provide for them, and a mother who questions traditional education and medical care. The family is poor, hungry, and the children are often left fending for themselves. The parents’ subtle neglect allows for situations of danger, assault, and molestation. This book allows the reader to grow up with the characters. The positive spin that Jeanette originally placed on all of her horrible situations slowly develops as she learns the life that she is really living and what is truly going on around her.
The Glass Castle tells a heartbreaking story about the damaging consequences of addiction by emphasizing the effect that it has on families and loved ones. This story is a tear jerker, yet impossible to put down. Jeannette does an amazing job describing and showing how poor their family was as she speaks about rats on her bed, holes in her shirt, and nothing in her refrigerator. This book also shines light on sexual assault, and how neglectful parents can be more harm than good for their children. It is a complex story that shines a light on countless devastating issues.