The Glass Castle Summary
7 min read ⌚
“Truth is stranger than fiction,” wrote Mark Twain over a century ago, adding that “it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
And, indeed, “The Glass Castle” is built on a somewhat impossible premise: that you can become a bestselling author even if you’re living in a rat-filled trash heap. And – yes! – it’s Jeannette Walls’ real-life story.
Who Should Read “The Glass Castle”? And Why?
As its subtitle puts it in an oh so succinct manner, “The Glass Castle” is a memoir. And we know that you like to read memoirs. Especially when they are written by – wink! wink! – MSNBC.com former gossip columnist. (Whose first book, by the way, had incidentally outed Matt Drudge, a conservative American commentator, as gay.)
However, don’t expect to find such juicy stories about other celebrities in “The Glass Castle.” Expect to find even more vivid ones – but all happening somewhere on the other side of the American dream. You know – the dark one, the nightmare of about 41 million Americans living in poverty.
Because Jeannette Walls was one of them.
About Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls is an American author and journalist.
She made her name as MSNBC.com’s gossip columnist, a job she had for a decade between 1998 and 2007, when she left to dedicate herself to full-time writing.
By then, she had already published her debut book, “Dish,” and the ultra-successful memoir, “The Glass Castle,” which Destin Daniel Cretton turned into a successful movie in 2017.
She has written two novels since “Half Broke Horses,” and “The Silver Star.”
“The Glass Castle PDF Summary”
By now, you certainly know who Jeannette Walls is?
If you are among the very few who don’t, she is a successful American author, journalist, and trendsetter. But “The Glass Castle” isn’t a book about her present; it’s a book about her past. A past which was at least ten times worse than yours.
“I wanted to let the world know that no one had a perfect life,” she writes in the book, “that even the people who seemed to have it all had their secrets.”
In “The Glass House,” Jeannette’s secrets start to unravel after leaving with a cab a New York City party she had attended. From the window of the car, she notices a homeless woman. To the surprise of the reader – it turns out that it’s actually her mother.
Cue flashbacks. And a good moment to meet the cast.
The woman Jeannette just saw is Rose Mary Walls, an eccentric painter married to a struggling alcoholic, Rex. Jeannette is the second-oldest of their four children. She has two sisters – an older one, Lori, and the youngest child in the family, Maureen – and a younger brother, Brian.
We start off when Jeannette is three years old. At that age, you were probably still sucking on your thumb. Jeannette was cooking hot dogs on a stove – while her mother was painting in another room. You know where the story goes: Jeannette sets herself on fire and has to be rushed to a hospital.
All’s fine until the bills come. There are two ways to deal with them: pay them, or, in the case of the Walls’ family, move to another town.
This becomes a recurring pattern over the next few years. Which is why there’s a car, a van or a neglected house in about 90% of the scenes in the 2-minute trailer for the 2017 Brie Larson movie:
Jeannette’s father is incapable of keeping a job; her mother is too creative to have one.
Extreme poverty and a life bereaved of choices. There’s a high chance that you don’t even know what that means. In a nutshell – you do the only thing you can at a particular moment. Because you don’t have an alternative.
At one point, for the Wallses, this means moving in with Rex’s mother, Erma, in Welch, West Virginia. Now, it may not seem as bad at first sight, but bear in mind that you still haven’t heard Erma’s parenting methods. Two examples: laughter is strictly forbidden; and the kids’ dwelling place is the basement.
To top that, the kids are placed in a class for challenged children. Now, they all turned out fine in the end, so you may wonder what the actual reasons were. Well, for one Rose Mary lost all the records; and, for two, the kids had accents unfamiliar to the locals!
It gets even worse!
At one point, Rex and Rose Mary go back to Phoenix to retrieve some valuables. And Jeannette walks in on her grandmother Erma molesting her brother Brian. All hell breaks loose – which is not made better once Rex returns. Because – remember – he has no choice but to scold his children. And because – read between the lines – he may have gone through the same ordeal as a child.
Either way, they are kicked out. So, they relocate once again – this time in a small, derelict house with no indoor plumbing. However, Rex dreams big, and he promises his children that one day he would turn this shack into a beautiful home for his family.
You’ve guessed it: this is The Glass Castle from the title. And just like its imagined building material tends to, the dream of it shatters before you know it.
Because instead of doing something to make it a reality, Rex usually does everything he can to prevent it from becoming one. Even when Rose Mary gets a teaching job and they start saving some money, Rex finds a way to spend them.
And that way is called alcohol – an addiction which he isn’t able to beat even after promising Jeannette for her 10th birthday that he will. It’s not like he doesn’t try: soon after the birthday, he ties himself to the bed for a week to overcome the addiction!
However, he also steals Jeannette’s and Lori’s money and even uses Jeannette in a pool hustling scheme, which ends up with her being nearly raped by a much older man.
Lori and Jeannette decide to leave Virginia for New York City, and after some trials, they eventually succeed. Lori goes first; Jeannette follows. She encourages Brian to join her, so he comes too. When Maureen is twelve, Lori convinces her to come as well.
You see, after a while, Rex and Rose Mary come to New York too. And basically, they take advantage of their kids’ charity day in day out, until – once again – they become unbearable. So, they become homeless as well.
You would think we made a full circle, coming back to the beginning of the story, right?
Well, there’s a final twist! And it’s not pretty.
Later on, during a fight, Maureen tries to stab her mother, and she is arrested. She spends the next year of her life in a mental institution, before moving to California, far from her parents.
Meanwhile, Lori has become a successful comic book artist – creating an Archie comics character (guess how it got its name?) – and Brian a cop. You already know what Jeannette has become. Rex gets sick and dies.
And at a Thanksgiving family reunion, the rest toast him and his unconventional methods. And start retelling some of these stories.
But, this time – with some relief and few laughs.
Key Lessons from “The Glass Castle PDF”
1. Everybody Has a Secret
2. It’s from Rags to Riches… for Some
3. Dream Big: Sometimes It Makes All the Difference
Everybody Has a Secret
AS we told you above, at the beginning of her memoir, Jeannette – already a rich, successful journalist – sees her mother digging through garbage and that takes her back.
Now, we didn’t tell you two things. First of all, that Jeannette slid down in her cab seat to hide from her mother. And secondly, that this isn’t what actually inspired her to write “The Glass Castle.” The thing that did it was much banaler and superficial.
Namely, a “Village Voice” cartoonist called Jeannette and told her that, for his next cartoon, he plans to expose her parents as squatters. “The Glass Castle” was Jeannette’s way to deal with the stress of being outed.
The good news?
She realized that everybody has some secret. Even the rich ones. Especially them.
It’s from Rags to Riches… for Some
It’s the American dream: going from the bottom to the top. Or, as the Romans would say, from the plow to the stars.
And some really do: both Lori and Jeannette succeeded; Brian fared well too. However, Mary Rose and Rex lived most of their lives as homeless people. And, unfortunately, so do about 2 in 1,000 Americans.
Dream Big: Sometimes It Makes All the Difference
Now, when you don’t believe that someday you’ll be able to buy a star – why don’t you claim ownership of one in a story?
That’s what Rex Walls did. One day, she takes Jeannette to the desert and, since she doesn’t have anything else to give her, she persuades her that her Christmas gift is a bright star above them – namely, the planet Venus. And he also says that when the gifts given to the other children will turn to junk, hers will be intact and as bright.
Consider this a metaphor. And a guideline.
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“The Glass Castle” Quotes- Things usually work out in the end. - What if they don't? - That just means you haven't come to the end yet. Click To Tweet You should never hate anyone, even your worst enemies. Everyone has something good about them. You have to find the redeeming quality and love the person for that. Click To Tweet Life is a drama full of tragedy and comedy. You should learn to enjoy the comic episodes a little more. Click To Tweet I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes. Click To Tweet Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“The Glass Castle” spent three years on “The New York Times Bestsellers” list, sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into more than 20 languages. Fascinating – if you take into account that, at the time of publishing, Jeannette Wall was a gossip journalist little known outside the United States.
The book, even though a personal memoir, touches on something profoundly humane and universal. And, consequently, we can guarantee you that you’ll never be able to put it down.
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