August 25, 2015
Just Finished Reading: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started this book a long time ago and just didn’t get into it, but I knew I was totally in the minority on that and have long wanted to give it another try. I suspected that not liking it much back then was one of those timing things and that I was going to love it this time around. Happily, was I right.
This is a wonderfully written memoir about the author’s childhood of poverty and neglect resulting from her parents’ eccentricity and alcoholism. Life starts out as an unconventional, nomadic adventure for the Walls family (giving stars for Christmas presents while sleeping in the desert), but gradually descends into utter squalor and dysfunction (a garbage pit in the backyard of their decrepit house in West Virginia, the author coloring her legs with a black Sharpie to camouflage the holes in her pants, her father smashing a piggy bank and stealing money the kids had worked and saved for for nine months to go on a bender).
I found myself both repulsed and fascinated by her parents (mostly repulsed, but she portrayed them so compellingly), and would actually be interested in reading this story from not only their viewpoints, but each of her three siblings. She has, in fact, written Half Broke Horses, the story of her maternal grandmother, which she says came about when trying to understand her mother’s story. Putting that one on my list to read.
The Glass Castle is heartbreaking yet not depressing, and you have to shake your head, not only at the author’s ability to break free from her life circumstances and flourish, but to remain un-embittered and affectionate toward her family. I loved this book, it is one that will stay with me.
Now Reading: Sprout by Dale Peck
Honestly, the cover and title alone would make me want to read this, but here’s the back: A move from New York to rural Kansas following the death of his mother uproots Sprout. He’s sure he’ll find no friends, no love, no beauty there. But then friends find him, the strangeness of the landscape fascinates him and, when love shows up in an unexpected place, Sprout realizes that Kansas is not quite as empty as he thought. Subverting stereotypes and packed with gritty humor, Sprout is an inspirational coming of age story about a boy who knows he is gay in a town that seems to have no place to hide.
Also Reading: How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims
A former dean at Stanford, the author found freshmen showing up to college totally unprepared to handle life without their over-involved parents. This book urges parents—and she includes herself—to stop hovering for the sake of everyone. (I’m only on page 79 and I’m already conscious of reasonably expecting more from my kids. I still have a long way to go, but hopefully I’m moving in the right direction.)