Sink or Swim…. that’s the mentality that Jeannette Walls, author of the fabulous memoir “The Glass Castle“, had to follow while growing up in the Walls family household. I’ve wanted to read this book forever, but somehow never got around to reading it. I then received a lovely email from my sister in law’s mother saying that this book was fabulous and that I should really pick it up and give it a go. So while on vacation this past week (with 3 out of 4 of my lovely family members), I lay by the poolside reading about the trials and tribulations of growing up with parents that were anything but conventional.
Her story starts of with a busy morning in Jeannette Walls day to day life. She’s sitting in a cab rushing to work, when she looks out the window and sees her beloved Mother fishing through a dumpster for food. This is the story of how it came to be that Jeannette Walls, a successful gossip columnist for MSNBC, grew up in a world of poverty and how today, after all these years, her Mother struggles everyday with finding a place to sleep each night. Walls was born into a struggling household run by her alcoholic Father, Rex and her happy-go-lucky and artistic Mother, Rose. As a child, Jeannette knew that she and her three siblings were different from the average family that surrounded her in school. She and her siblings, her older sister Lori, younger brother Brian and little sister Maureen learned early on that they had to make the best out of any situation and had to “toughen” up in order to fend off the people who made fun of their garbage sink hole by their home, their worn clothes and their skinny appearances due to lack of proper nutrition. Their constant moving had them travelling all over the US struggling to make ends meet. With each move, the Walls children (specifically the older three) learned to fend for themselves, many times taking on the roll of their parents, as Rex and Rose lived in denial that there was anything wrong with their lives.
Jeannette maintained a strong bond with her Father. Early on she held out hope that he would put down the bottle and provide for their family as he always promised. But with age, she (and Lori and Brian) realize that the Glass Castle their Father always promised to build them after he made it rich by finding gold, was only a pipe dream. They realize that in order to create the ideal lifestyle they always envisioned, they have to create their own fate. The three of them (minus Maureen, who was too young at the time) create a budget to stick with and worked odd jobs, such as babysitting and creating art for their peers at school to save up to escape their dreaded fate in Welch, West Virginia. Although, they run into a few hiccups along the way, they created a plan and they stuck to it, with a few people who believed in them along the way (Jeannette’s teacher Mrs. Bivens).
It’s a story like none other I’ve read before. It’s filled with struggles that people living in poverty face every single day; where will I lay my head tonight, what will I eat for dinner, etc. It’s a real depiction of poverty and it’s one that made me personally thankful for being blessed for all the fortunate things that I have in my life. I also believe that the Walls children grew up with a fire in their belly for a better life, they knew that the life their parents led (and lead today) wasn’t for them. I strongly urge each and every one of you to read this book (if you haven’t already) and not put it off for as long as I did. It will leave you with a different view of your day to day life, I guarantee it.