Summary: Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the…Read more.
This is the kind of story that will keep coming back to your thoughts long after you’re finished reading. The book is so thought-provoking and I was fascinated throughout. Jeannette Walls is fantastic.
A truly amazing story. I was sad when it finally had to end. These kids must have had a really difficult life, and yet the book is so well written that it serves as a testament to how individuals can triumph against the greatest odds, and come back from adversity.
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Jeannette Walls: The Glass Castle Audio Book Summary
The novel starts out in modern New York City with a woman named Jeannette Walls riding in a taxi cab. As she looks out across the cityscape, she recognizes her own mother pitifully digging through trash. Jeannette’s mother has spent years being homeless, therefore, the news didn’t shock Jeannette, but as she was driving past, it caused her to feel a sense of gloom and shame. While still inside of the cab, she starts to reminisce about her childhood, her parents, and how the choices made by her parents have affected her adult life.
Her reflection of the past starts with a three-year-old Jeannette attempting to boil her own hot dogs. Unfortunately, she is unable to properly reach the stovetop and her dress catches on fire, causing her to end up in the hospital with horrible burns. She spends several days in the hospital when her father shows up to claim her and they leave without paying the bill.
Jeannette’s memories center around the different moves her family has had to make in order for her father to hold down a job. The Walls family must move frequently as Dad suffers from alcoholism as well as severe bouts of paranoia regarding society and the organized state. The family attempts to settle down in Battle Mountain, Nevada and though Brian and Jeannette enjoy their stay by exploring the desert, they are once again forced to move to Phoenix when there’s an altercation with law enforcement. Their move to Phoenix was a decision made by Jeannette’s mother as she has inherited property there from her mother (Jeannette’s grandmother).
The family is stable for a while in Phoenix and the house offers the Walls children plenty of freedom. Unfortunately, their happiness is short-lived. Dad is still suffering from alcoholism and Jeannette asks him to give up drinking for her tenth birthday. He complies and he manages to remain sober for a few weeks, only to return to drinking when their car breaks down and he is riddled with shame. In an attempt to keep the family together, Mom makes the suggestion that they move to Welch, West Virginia which is where Jeannette’s father is from. Dad complies and the family heads east.
The move uncovers an unfortunate past of abuse and Dad’s mother takes advantage of Brian sexually. Unfortunately, it is later hinted that Dad may have also been molested by his mother growing up. The family doesn’t give up and they move to a dilapidated home on top of a hill nearby. The home has no plumbing, has a leaky roof, and the children are often without food. Dad is still an alcoholic, and Jeannette and Lori can no longer handle their parent’s choices. They come up with a plan that as soon as Lori is old enough, she will move to New York and Jeannette will follow.
Jeannette is able to find a job as a reporter in the city, and along with her sister, they’re able to get their lives back on track. They later invite their two younger siblings to stay with them. Unable to cope with loneliness, the parents move to New York City as well, but since they can’t hold down jobs, they become squatters. Maureen, Jeannette’s younger sister, is unable to care for herself on her own, so she ends up stabbing their mother. She is admitted to a mental hospital, and their father dies of a heart attack in his late 50’s.
The end of the novel deals with Jeannette realizing that her past made her who she is today. In response, she divorces her husband, moves away from the city, and makes peace with her childhood.