I loved Kite Runner so much I nominated it for President. Upon finishing The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls I realized maybe Kite Runner could use a running mate to kiss babies and glad handle voters. Because, wow is that book good, too.
The Glass Castle is a memoir of the author's childhood. She was one of four kids, her father was an alcoholic and her family was very, very poor. But not in a minimum wage working class kind of way. And not in a living on welfare sort of way either. Her parents just didn’t seem to see anything wrong with having no money and living in squalor. A bucket in the kitchen was the toilet. Her brother slept under an inflatable raft because the roof leaked. They had no heat in West Virginia in the winter. Her whole childhood was like that. Holy cow.
Her mother had a teaching degree, too. She was able bodied and qualified for employment. She just chose not to get a job the majority of the time. Her father drank and smoked away most of the money he managed to make when he had a job. To say I find her rise to a normal and successful life inspiring is an understatement.
I once gave my mom a hard time for giving me a box of bras for my birthday. I was 17. I guess they didn't seem fun and birthday-ish. I am officially an ungrateful whore. Because this girl caught her mother secretly eating Hershey bars and gaining weight while she and her siblings were literally starving. Combing through trash cans for food starving. Like high school's not hard enough. Try doing it without bathing, in ratty clothes and starving. Oh, and you live in a hovel. What the hell. That's all I could think. Just what the hell.
The Glass Castle is stunning. I thought the writing was really good but but it's the story itself that really took my breath away. It puts homelessness and poverty into a new light. And the parents aren't just one dimensional villains. It'd be easier if they were. But they really do seem to love their kids in their own way. Their way is just really different. And flawed. Terribly flawed.
Upon finishing the book, I immediately scoured the internet for more information about the author. I think I was hoping the book was a memoir a la James Frey and maybe parts of it were fictional. Which of course wasn't the case. I found an interesting article in which Jeannette Walls discusses the book. It includes a discussion about whether the mother is selfish. Walls seems to think her mother was egocentric as opposed to selfish. She describes her mother as very childlike. The way a kid only thinks of themselves and has to be taught to consider others. But isn't that the very definition of selfish? Thinking of yourself and only yourself? And I think she knew she was being selfish. She just didn't care. She hid the candy bars under her blanket when she was eating them for a reason. Because she knew it was wrong.
I seriously could not let go of that. I could forgive staying with an alcoholic husband. I could forgive not wanting to go on welfare. I could even forgive being slightly insane. But I really couldn't have gotten past being self absorbed. She was reading books all day. And painting. And her kids are starving. Once more with feeling, what the hell.
Kite Runner is still the best book I've read lately. But The Glass Castle is a close second. It's awesome. It will linger with you in a way that says you can be anything you want to be and to hell with what kind of childhood you had.
I'm still busy decluttering my house with the help of Peter Walsh and his book It's All Too Much. He hasn't convinced me to part with the 2 boxes of useless beanie babies yet but he has convinced me I don't need to cling to great books. So I've decided to start giving away my Imaginary Book Club selections when I'm done reading them. The Glass Castle will be first. Free. Even the shipping. No strings attached. All you have to do is want it. And not mind that it's a used copy.
So leave a comment if you want it. If by some miracle I have more than one reader that hasn't read it yet, I'll randomly draw a winner. I guess I should be all official like and give a deadline so the book won't sit here gathering dust like my priceless beanie baby collection. I'll give the Internet until midnight Saturday January 12th to claim my free shipping and handling used copy of The Glass Castle. No takers and it goes the way of the beanie babies. Which will hopefully be Goodwill if Peter has his way.
Oh, and the Imaginary Book Club is reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini next. It was recommended by In the Trenches of Mommyhood and Jurgen Nation. I'm 79 pages in and already wondering where it's been all my life. Way to be.