Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat," and there's perhaps no more apt a nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In THE GLASS CASTLE, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents:... read more
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,... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
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 responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
“"No one expected you to amount to much."”Jeanette's mom
“"And it's a little on the rustic side." "How rustic?" Lori asked. Mom paused. I could see her debating how to phrase her answer. "It doesn't have indoor plumbing."”
“"Things usually work out in the end." "What if they don't?" "That just means you haven't come to the end yet."”Mom
“"One thing about whoring, it puts a chicken on the table!"”Jeanette Walls
“"we did the Skeddadle again"”Jeanette Walls
“"Mom told us we would have to go shoplifting."Isn't that a sin?" I asked Mom."Not exactly," Mom said. "God doesn't mind you bending the rules a little if you have a good reason. It's sort of like justifiable homicide. This is justifiable pilfering.""”
“The next day she had blisters the length of her thighs. "Just remember," Mom said after examining the blisters. "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.""If that was true, I'd be Hercules by now," Lori said.”
“We laughed about all the kids who believed in the Santa myth and got nothing for Christmas but a bunch of cheap plastic toys. "Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten," Dad said, "you'll still have your stars."”
“We quickly learned that whenever we ventured into the kitchen, we needed to wrap our hands in the driest socks or rags we could find. If we got a shock, we'd announce it to everyone else, sort of like giving a weather report. "Big jolt from touching the stove today," we'd say, "Wear extra rags."”
“"Just then we took a sharp turn over some railroad tracks, the door flew open, and I tumbled out of the car...I waited for what seemed like a long time before I decided it was possible Mom and Dad might not come back for me. They might not notice I was missing. They might decide that it wasn't worth the drive back to retrieve me."”Jeannette Walls
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