Despite her fears that no one would speak to her after she wrote her memoir The Glass Castle (2005), Jeannette Walls has since learned that she is very popular. Her memoir is a huge success, selling millions of copies all over the world. People and critics are truly fascinated with her story.
Jeannette and her three siblings were raised by parents no fiction writer could have ever made up. They all but starved their children; told them leaky roofs and bitter cold would make them strong; and then otherwise ignored them. The family was often on the move, escaping from creditors in the middle of the night in cars that sputtered down the road at no better than 35 miles per hour. Each time they moved, the children were told they had to leave everything behind except for one special thing. With this, Jeannette packed away her favorite rock. It was the only item she carried with her from Arizona house to desert cabin to West Virginia shack.
The author grew up skinny and neglected, painting her skin with ink markers to camouflage the holes in her clothes. She went to school hungry and at lunch sat with her brother and read books. After lunch, they would search trashcans for discarded food. Jeannette's maternal grandmother sometimes came to their rescue, putting them up in her home and feeding them. But Jeannette's father, Rex, was a stubborn man who had trouble holding down a job, and when his mother-in-law called him worthless, he uprooted his family again. When the older woman died, Jeannette's mother, Rose Mary, inherited the house, which was filled with expensive furnishings. But Rose Mary refused to sell any of the goods even when they went days unable to afford food. What money they did have, Rex tended to whittle away at bars, where he spent many of his days and nights.
Enthusiastic readers have consistently kept Walls's memoir on the best-seller lists and critics have praised her writing. Prior to completing her memoir, Walls wrote a gossip column, so she knew how to tell a good story. She told her own story, critics have concluded, without over-analyzing her parents and without falling into the trap of begging for pity. Reviewers have found that Walls tells her story objectively and even manages to keep her sense of humor.