by Jeannette Walls
The most amazing thing about this story to me, is its truth. It sheds an entirely different light upon homelessness than The People of the Abyss. Jeannette Walls and her siblings grew up in poverty, because her parents chose to live that way. They were both highly intelligent widely read people. They taught their children to read and do math in binary numbers before attending school, yet they couldn\’t hold a job between them long enough to pay rent or keep food in the house. More shocking to me than the descriptions of living in derelict houses and scrounging in garbage for food was this attitude. The father was an irresponsible drunk, shifty and highly distrustful of law and established order. The mother was an artist and a \”free spirit\” She simply didn\’t want to do housework or care for children, so her kids lived in filth and faced starvation while she sat reading stacks of books from the public library and painted pictures that piled up to the ceiling. Smart and determined, the kids found ways to fend for themselves, until they were old enough to leave. They all fled to New York where they found work, attended college and made careers for themselves. Their parents eventually followed, choosing to continue living on the streets and in abandoned buildings rather than feel beholden to anyone, even their own children!
I felt vaguely uneasy reading The Glass Castle, because the mother shared my two great passions: books and painting. I kept feeling like I was reading about an alternative version of myself, one who was totally selfish in indulging herself while her family suffered. I just could not picture myself being like that, and it almost made my skin crawl with shame when she spouted views I have held myself (but rarely acted upon), and then lived them to the greatest extreme.
Rating: 4/5 …….. 288 pages, 2005
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