Reading an excellent memoir is perhaps a little more satisfying than reading an excellent novel because when you put the book down you can say "holy shit, this actually happened." (Unless the memoir was written by James Frey). Although I thought I couldn't read a better memoir than Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight, I was wrong. The Glass Castle is the best memoir I have ever read.
When you read about the childhood that Jeannette Walls survived, it creates new meaning for the word "resilient". Her parents never should have had children, but they had four. Her father was a raging, but brilliant, alcoholic. Her mother was a selfish (and I think manic-depressive, although that is never discussed) woman who could not see beyond her own needs and challenges. At the age of 3 Jeannette is badly burned while cooking hotdogs for herself and her older sister so they could have something to eat for dinner, and neither of her parents show any remorse or shame for the position they put their child in by not providing enough food for her. This is consistent throughout her childhood as her parents move from one small town to another, letting their children fend for themselves, narrowly escaping abuse (both physical and sexual) from neighbors, strangers, and even grandparents and uncles. Only through the bond and protectivness of the siblings are the children able to survive and escape to New York City when they are old enough to live on their own.
What I found most moving about this book was the fact that Walls was able to write so openly and honestly about such horrific events in her childhood, but in a way where she was not asking the reader for pity or sympathy. Her life just was what it was, and the events that she survived were heart wrenching, but also freeing and deeply moving. Ultimately, this is a book about family, and the ties that keep us bound to each other whether we like it or not. It is definitely worth reading.
MY RATING: 10/10