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The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Book Review - The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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The Glass Castle isn't new, it came out way back in 2005. But since then, it has spent a total of 261 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list and this week a major motion picture based on this memoir by Jeannette Walls was released starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson. So I'm a little late to the party but I figure as long as I read the book before the movie leaves the theaters I'm doing okay. 

Reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago

Reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago

I listened to this book via Audible on one of my drives to Bloomington, IN and back to Chicago. It was read by the author, Jeannette Walls, which is really nice (especially when the author has a strong reading voice!) The book is a memoir about growing up in the Walls family, which was highly dysfunctional at best. Jeannette was the second oldest of four. Her mother didn't take to domesticity and wasn't keen on raising a family. Her father, although charismatic and academically brilliant, was an alcoholic. Essentially the Walls children raised themselves and eventually prospered.

It is cliche, but truly reading this book was like watching a train crash. You don't want to see it happen but you can't look away. Similarly, I didn't particularly enjoy reading this story but I also couldn't put it down. I was mesmerized by the dysfunction of the family. I was intrigued by how smart everyone was but how helpless the parents were when it came to prospering in this world. I was amazed by how well the children did in life despite how they were raised. 

Reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago

Reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago

It isn't often that I get to see the movie so close to when I read the book, so I took full advantage and saw the movie just a few days after finishing. Now I think all book-lovers will agree, the movie is NEVER as good as the book. This movie is no exception. It took a lot of liberties with the book, most notably:

  1. Scenes were out of order than how they were written in the book
  2. LOTS of scenes that I found significant in the book were left out
  3. New scenes were added, primarily later in life, that I suppose were meant to accentuate how much Jeanette's life had changed

Despite these changes, I thought the movie was good. (Certainly better than what the critics are giving it credit for...) It tugged at my heartstrings in the same way the book did. Read: I shed a ton of tears. Just like Jeanette, I had a love/hate relationship with her parents. The movie and book both illustrated them as generally good people with several consequential flaws (alcoholism being the worst offender.) Perhaps the movie went a little light on the mother's role in all of this. But reviewing the movie separate from the book, I think it was a good. The best part? At the end there is real footage of the Walls family from the 80s and pictures of the family when the children were young.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir
$10.29
By Jeannette Walls

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