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Publisher's Summary

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly.

Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict". Cooking a meal that would be consumed in 15 minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.

Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town - and the family - Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

©2005 Jeannette Walls (P)2010 Simon and Schuster Audio

What the critics say

"Jeannette Walls has carved a story with precision and grace out of one of the most chaotic, heartbreaking childhoods ever to be set down on the page. This deeply affecting memoir is a triumph in every possible way, and it does what all good books should: it affirms our faith in the human spirit." (Dani Shapiro, author of Family History)
" The Glass Castle is the saga of the restless, indomitable Walls family, led by a grand eccentric and his tempestuous artist wife. Jeannette Walls has survived poverty, fires, and near starvation to triumph. She has written this amazing tale with honesty and love." (Patricia Bosworth, author of Anything Your Little Heart Desires and Diane Arbus: A Biography)
"Just read the first pages of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and I defy you not to go on. It's funny and sad and quirky and loving. I was incredibly touched by it." (Dominick Dunne, author of The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper)

Editorial Review

In this heart-wrenching nonfiction memoir, Jeannette Walls relives her deeply troubled childhood. Her father was severely alcoholic and her mother, wildly irresponsible. Living in devastating poverty with her three siblings, Jeannette beautifully recounts her dysfunctional family’s limitless hardships and love.

Jeannette’s memoirs chronicle important points of her childhood as the daughter of a father who drinks away the grocery money yet dotes on his children, and a mother who would sooner create an artwork than provide for her family. Her shocking account of the events that marked her for life only makes it more impressive that Walls was able to overcome these traumas to become the accomplished writer and journalist she is today. Her vivid and emotional recollection of how the four siblings developed the self-preservation to survive and escape the harrowing realities of their childhood has become a must-listen story for nonfiction fans everywhere.

By narrating her own audiobook, Jeannette Walls truly bares her soul to tell the story of her dark past as her unwavering voice highlights the kindness in the darkest moments, and the crushing disappointments of the parents who let her down time and time again.

The Glass Castle has sold over 2.7 million copies, has been translated into over 20 languages and has received numerous awards. It also appeared on several bestseller lists, including 260 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.

What listeners say about The Glass Castle

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What an amazing story of resilience & ...

What an amazing story of resilience and the power of family & positive self talk,. I thought this book was well written, it was well narrated and had the story to make for an interesting listen. I couldn't wait to do things like clean my house, work in the garden or cook, all because I could listen to this book. There were times of laughter and times where although you laughed, you felt you shouldn't be. It was told in such a genuine way that you could feel the emotions of the author as though you were there living the scenario. There were times I laughed out loud and times when I was so frustrated I was talking to myself and yelling (at who I don't know because Jeannette certainly couldn't hear me, nor could either of her parents). I truly try not to judge others life choices, however, when your life choices don't put food on the table for the children you chose to have, nor clothes on their backs or a roof over their heads, then I gotta problem with that. There were times when I truly thought Jeanette's parents had some good philosophies but there were far too many times when I thought these people don't deserve to have children in their care. I really don't understand why child welfare was not called more than that one time. I think one of the things that blew my mind was the parents unwillingness to "accept charity" for their children. If you don't want food from a food bank or clothing from strangers or assistance with housing, then get off your asses and get a bloody job so your poor children can have at least one meal a day, clothes to keep them warm and a place to get a good nights sleep! It floors me that you need a license to drive but any Tom, Dick or Harry can have children!! I believe that in their own way, they loved their kids, however, they certainly didn't give them the very basics in life due to in my opinion sheer laziness & desire to fill their own needs first, no matter what it cost, even if that cost was at their children's expense, literally!

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and so far, it's my favorite of 2020!

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Amazing story

I loved this story and it was extra special because the author narrated. Jeannette Walls is funny, honest and impressive as a human being. There is always that one person who holds everything together in a family. I highly recommend this book. 5 stars

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Loved it!

An awesome book from start to finish, well written, compelling and very real. Thank you for sharing your story Jeannette!

2 people found this helpful

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The Glass Castle

My first audible book. Loved it. Looking forward to listening to more books and podcasts.

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Resilience

This book is the definition of resilience and strength. Thank you Jeannette for sharing the journey!

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Well

It wasn't bad, but I felt the extraordinary subject matter carried it more than skillful writing. Startling and painful to listen to, laugh because it's either that or cry.

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  • Lou
  • 2020-07-15

A great book about risk and resilience

An amazing story about the hardships of her childhood and how she overcome them to become the person she was proud to be.

1 person found this helpful

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A Memoir?

How reliable is our narrator? The life she recounts seems preposterous, a fantasy and a dangerous one at that. Alcoholism, mental illness, child neglect, and poverty are just a few of the serious issues shaping her story but the author deals with them as side issues, choosing to focus on the love, survivalist values, and resilience of her parents. The fiction that she created as a child to survive has become her whole narrative, her memoir. Given the insanity of her situation, her optimism and capacity for forgiveness depend on her constant reframing of her parents' bizarre behaviour. I am left wondering what she experienced and what she created. She is a skilled creator and this book is easy to read but hard to believe.

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Can't believe it's a Memoir

Such a fantastic book! I can't believe this is someone's real life! It made me want to yell and hold her tight! Shows you what parts of our world are like. Amazing that she did all the did and ended up the way she is! Amazing #Audible1

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Hard to push pause...

Having listened to the prequel to this (Half Broke Horses), I was interested in this also. Very well done! poignant true story.

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  • Jennifer
  • 2012-09-25

A CAPTIVATING READ

What made the experience of listening to The Glass Castle the most enjoyable?

The author seamlessly wove the events of her life into a beautiful memoir.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Jeanette, because she persevered and kept a positive outlook on life even in the midst of troubling situations.

What does Jeannette Walls bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Authentic dialect, emphasizing words/phrases, emotion

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Several...the time when her dad stole the money from their piggy bank, the time when Jeanette left her family and reminisced about watching her dad get smaller and eventually disappear, when Jeanette gave her final goodbye to her dad

Any additional comments?

So many moving parts it's hard to name them all...

26 people found this helpful

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  • Kmrsy
  • 2013-11-30

What's normal?

When I began listening to this memoir, I became disgusted and enraged; I almost stopped a couple of hours in, but I kept at it and I'm very glad I did. Like many other people who've commented on this book, I thought of the parents as selfish and the treatment of the children as child abuse. But you get a little further in and you start thinking mom is bipolar and dad is a genius whose brain got pickled in the womb. This doesn't justify their behavior; it simply helps to explain some of it. They both had a screw loose.

Some people did not like Walls' narration. I felt that she read it much the way she felt it as a child. Again, it took me a while to come to this realization, but I think this helped make it feel more true.

I found it amazing that Rex and Rose Mary found each other. The life they created was normal for them, maybe not so for you and me, but it was their life and unfortunately their kids had to go along with it. Even if they'd sold the land in TX, They would have found a way to burn through the $ with little benefit to the kids. I do think, though, that Lori, Jeannette, and Brian got more from their parents in some ways than many of us do in "normal" families. My dad never gave me a planet. Maureen, on the other hand, came along too late to reap the good stuff; the parents were burned out by then.

Just as Jeannette's sociology teacher thought she knew it all, so too,do some of the "normal" people of this world. It does really take all kinds. Not everyone follows the same set of rules. I really appreciate Walls giving us the opportunity to see her world from her viewpoint, from her normal.

96 people found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 2013-11-22

Perfect memoir, perfect narration

Any additional comments?

Memoir of growing up in extreme poverty in Battle Mountain, Nevada; Phoenix; and a tiny coal town in West Virginia. What makes it so fascinating aside from one harrowing adventure after another is how damaged yet intellectually sharp her parents are as they haphazardly care for four kids. The scenes involving cheetah-petting and traveling in the back of an enclosed U-Haul truck across Nevada will stay with me a long time. A classic.

39 people found this helpful

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  • Trevor
  • 2012-04-13

Loved this Book

The Glass Castle was recommended to me by a friend and my mother-in-law as an incredible book. I was apprehensive because I read some comments by other aubible users about the narration being quite dry. However, I listened to the sample and purchased the book anyway...I thought that the narration was fine. This book was wriiten in first person and told, not as a story, but as an account of what has happened in the author's life. Also, the author narrated it herself and told it as if she was talking to a friend, literally sharing her life story. I have a ton of respect for the author for sharing her story and for overcoming so many obstacles. It goes to show, life is more about what you make it, as opposed to settling for what your given.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Karen S. Kungie-torres
  • 2017-04-10

Crazy story; mediocre writing and narration.

This is one of those books I wasn't sure that I wanted to finish. The writing is formulaic without syntactic variety. The narration shows the same redundancy of voice pattern. Gets boring to listen to, but the content is crazy enough to pull you through to the end, which is satisfyingly appropriate.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Tara Saunders
  • 2012-06-13

couldn't stop listening!

What did you love best about The Glass Castle?

just an amazing tale of a differnt sort of life. i love to see how other people live and this filled that need and SOOOOO much more! the author has you from page one.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Glass Castle?

there are so many, the whole book is wonderful! i was anxious to find out WHY it was titled "the glass castle."

What about Jeannette Walls’s performance did you like?

though she wasn't the best i've ever heard, i enjoyed that the voice i was hearing was the same person that lived the tale. she grew on me.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

though the parents were not always the best to their kids, i felt jeannette still allowed for the listener to feel somewhat connected to them. i just enjoyed this story so much, i couldn't wait to find out how things ended up for them all!

Any additional comments?

LISTEN TO IT!!

10 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 2011-08-26

Can this be True??

One of the best stories ever. Took me awhile to get use to the voice, but once I did, I really loved it and even got her other book. What a life and very well told. Can picture everything. Would love to meet Jeannette Walls.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Elisabeth W.
  • 2012-09-17

Like peeping through your fingers at a car wreck

The Glass Castle is the remarkable tale of Jeannette Walls growing up with her whacky parents. It is such an entertaining, outrageous story that it is hard to believe. Assuming that it is true, Walls' youth certainly provides some framework of appreciation for me as I look back at my "boring", stable family. If it is all hyperbole, then it is an inventive memoir of a highly dysfunctional family. Either way, it is a very entertaining listen.

29 people found this helpful

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  • nancy c
  • 2017-05-16

Bad narrator

This was a perfect example of why writers should not read their own books. Just because you wrote it doesn't mean you are a narrator and should read it. Almost stopped listening several times it was that bad. Luckily the content of the book was good enough to keep me attention.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Alison Willette
  • 2016-05-20

Great story but not my favorite narration

I liked the sorry. It flowed well. The narrator didn't sound like she was comfortable reading it even though it was her own writing.

7 people found this helpful