Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Heartbreaking Nomadic Childhood

I've just finished one of the best books I've read in a long time and again, it's nonfiction. I'm really going to have to quit saying that I don't read this genre :)

I finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in one day and WOW! What a story! I started this book at 10am on a Saturday morning and by 5pm that evening I had turned the last page. I flew through this woman’s life like a speeding jet. This is narrative nonfiction at its very best, though I will admit to a bit of skepticism on how exactly she remembers so much. The book begins with a 3-year-old Walls setting herself on fire while cooking hotdogs. Meticulous details take us from the ballerina tutu she was wearing catching on fire through skin grafts and the gentle investigations of the nurses and administrators as to why exactly a 3-year-old little would be cooking her own food.

You would think the story would expand from there to include foster homes and accusations of negligence but you’d be wrong. Instead, her father decides it is time to “check out Rex-Walls style” so he grabs her up and flees the hospital for the car, which is still running and packed with a few belongings and Walls’ mother and siblings. They drive away into the night and so begins Jeannette Walls’ incomparable life with parents more nomadic than loving.

The extreme poverty this family goes through is unimaginable, especially in light of the fact that this story took place not too long ago. Jeannette Walls’ photo shows a beautiful woman’s face to the world but her life’s story reveals that she felt gangly, awkward and unlovely. She had buckteeth and had to make her own braces. Her home’s lack of indoor plumbing (or electricity on many occasions) made hygiene a problem as well. I could go on and on about the struggles these poor kids had to go through for the most basic of conveniences but it would begin to sound repetitious coming from me so go out and read Walls’ version instead. She chronicles better than anyone else could the heartbreaking lows and manic highs of her dysfunctional family.

I have just checked out her other book, Dish: The Inside Story On the World of Gossip and I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it when I finish!

Happy Reading!


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