BON'S BOOK CLUB
SEPTEMBER: THE GLASS CASTLE
SEPTEMBER: THE GLASS CASTLE
2013 Book Club Schedule
September: Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
October: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
November: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
December: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver'
Book time, ladies! This month's book was The Glass Castle. I absolutely tore through this book- I could not put it down. The last few pages I tried to read as slowly as I could, savoring each page and wishing it didn't have to end. I always know that's a great sign that I liked a book, if I get so sad the closer I get to finishing it.
The Glass Castle is a memoir written by Jeannette Wells about growing up with nomadic parents. They move all over the place, they never have money, the kids sleep in cardboard boxes for beds. The mom is an aspiring painter and the dad wanders from project to project- neither one of them hardly working or making money. The kids are basically starving and are left to fend for themselves while the mom daydreams and the dad spends days at a time at a bar.
This is my second time reading The Glass Castle. The first time I read it was in the summer of 2006. I was 20 and living the carefree, wild life that summer. I must have been pretty dang distracted that summer if I couldn't remember more of the details of the book because it is an absolutely terrific book. Anytime anyone has mentioned The Glass Castle the past seven years I have chimed in, "Oh yah! I read that! It was great!" and then as soon as that person would want to engage in any sort of conversation about the book I was out- couldn't remember a darn thing.
This time around I reacted very strongly to the book. Little Jeanette practically became a part of me. I lived her and breathed her and it was like she was a real part of my life, calling me up every night to tell me all of the crazy shenanigans her family was up to. I worried about her and stayed up at night thinking about her and wondered how in the world she was going to make it out alive.
I was also much angrier with her parents reading it this second time. I remember about a year after first reading The Glass Castle my sister said something along the lines of, "Oh, that's the book with the parents that abuse their children?" and I stood up for the parents. I didn't think it was abuse at all. "No, they just live a more carefree lifestyle. They're not concerned about all that worldly stuff. It's certainly unconventional, but I wouldn't call it abuse." As I read it a second time I found myself totally contradicting my earlier thoughts. I was infuriated by her parents. I saw both parents as extremely selfish and in no condition to be raising children.
The scene I reacted to most strongly was one of the scenes with the grandma- Erma. Mom and dad have gone back to Phoenix to pick up their things and while they are gone Erma tries to touch Brian inappropriately. The other kids stand up for Brian and Lori gets in a fight with Erma, at which point Erma banishes them all to the basement. For days the kids are by themselves downstairs with no food, no water, and no heat in the middle of winter. This is what Walls says when the parents come back weeks later to find the four children huddled in bed for warmth,
"Dad stomped down the stairs into the basement, furious at all of us, me for back-talking Erma and making wild accusations, and Lori even more for daring to strike her own grandmother, and Brian for being such a pussy and starting the whole thing. I thought Dad would come around to our side once he'd heart what had happened, and I tried to explain.
"I don't care what happened!" he yelled.
"But we were just protecting ourselves," I said.
"Brian's a man, he can take it," he said. "I don't want to hear another word of this. Do you hear
me?" He was shaking his head, but wildly, almost as if he thought he could keep out the sound of my voice. He wouldn't even look at me.
Up until that point I could understand Jeannette's tenderness toward her dad- what little girl doesn't think her dad is a hero?- but that was where I drew the line. I couldn't believe that the dad wouldn't stand up for his kids, defend his soon, take the children out of the house right that minute. I could forgive to some extent his drunkenness and his constant unemploymentk and his allowing his kids to go hungry, but not this.
I was likewise upset with the mom. Although her neglect seems to be a bit more subtle, she still drove me crazy. The kids are so starving they are eating butter and sugar and when the kids find a two carat diamond under the house, the mom keeps it instead of selling it to give food to the kids. Her reasoning: "It could improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food."
What I loved about the parents, though, and Walls' interpretation of them, is that you could tell as she wrote about them that she still had so much love for them. I loved the parents in one chapter and in the next I wanted to strangle them to death- just like people in real life, I guess. They were incredibly flawed and frustrating, but also somewhat endearing. I appreciated that Walls could write about what most of us would see as a terrible childhood without sounding bitter or resentful. She describes it with love, even the truly horrific parts.
I would recommend this book to anyone in a heartbeat. In fact, I am trying to get it approved by the school district to teach my seniors. It is such an eye opening book and so well written. I feel like there is so much to discuss too. One of the questions I would love to ask my students is if they think the parents should lose custody of their children. Is it better that the children go on in filth and starvation and be together or be split up and have essentials like food, warm water, winter coats, etc. Should parents like these be punished in some way for their actions? What gave the kids the ability to rise up from their surroundings? I think I could get great discussion out of those 18 year olds with a book like this. Now, if I can just get it approved!
Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or if you wrote a blog post, leave the link for the post! If you want to write a post but don't know what to say, consider the questions in the paragraph above. Should be lots to discuss there!