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Author's Biography

Jeannette Walls, a journalist and writer, known for her gossip column for MSNBC.com. One of the four children of Rex and Mary Walls, living with them until she moved to New York at age 17. She graduated from Barnard College, and then married her first husband Eric Goldberg. Walls now lives in Virginia with her former husband John J. Taylor. She has written for New York Magazine, Esquire, USA Today and has had appearences in The Today Show, CNN, Colbert Report and Primetime. Jeanette's most known novels are Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip, The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel.

Plot Overview

A memoir about Jeannette's dysfunctional and adventurous family. With an inspirational father and an artistic mother, the four children grew up with a totally different outlook on life than the other kids around them. Not only was he an inspirational man, he was an alchololic. An alcoholic father mad life a little more interesting, with his drunken outbursts and abusive ways. Their free spirtited mother was irresposible and lazy when it came to caring for her family. She paid a majority of her attention to her art and music. The family moved place to place with little money and little knowledge of where they were heading.


Throughout the story, the family moves many times. They have lived in:
Arizona, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Battle Mountain, West Virginia,
New York, and some small desert towns along the way.


Forgiveness: Throughout the entire story, the children do nothing but forgive their parents for all of their wrong doings. From the beginning of the story, Jeannette had been forgiving her parents for being so careless and for letting the kids basically care for themselves. She also had to forgive them for putting her through such a rough and care-free life.

Selfishness: The parents in the story seem to care a lot about themselves and a lot about their wants/needs. For example, Mary had eaten the last bit of food even though her own children had been just as hungry. Also, Rex has a huge gambling problem and blows their little amount of money on slot machines and card games.

Maturity: Jeannette and her siblings are more mature than their own parents. They take care of each other, they find their own way of getting food and they keep their parents from killing each other. This just shows how maturity is all mixed up in this story, the parents are more like children.


Poor: The Walls family suffers from a poor lifestyle all throughout Jeannette’s childhood. Even though they barely had enough to get by, they always made the best of life and got through it together. She gets away from it all by moving to New York when she raises up enough money to be on her own.


Car: Even though the car is nothing but a piece of junk, it is always their great escape. It takes them anywhere they have to go and gets them away from life when times get tough.

Fire: Jeannette’s encounter with fire would make anyone believe that she would be petrified by it, she is the complete opposite. Her fascination with fire shows how strong she is and how she doesn’t let anything emotionally scar her, like the life she had growing up.

Book Reviews

Publishers Weekly- "With a fantastic storytelling knack... Walls doesn't pull her punches."

The New York Times - Francine Prose- "The Glass Castle falls short of being art, but it's a very good memoir. At one point, describing her early literary tastes, Walls mentions that ''my favorite books all involved people dealing with hardships.'' And she has succeeded in doing what most writers set out to do -- to write the kind of book they themselves most want to read."

Booklist - Stephanie Zvirin (starred review)- "Shocking, sad, and occasionally bitter, this gracefully written account speaks candidly, yet with surprising affection, about parents and about the strength of family ties--for both good and ill."

Study Questions

1. What causes Jeannette to become fascinated with fire?

2. Why does the family move a lot?

3. How do Jeannette's parents compare to other parents?

4. What causes the fight between Rex and Mary when Mary ends up dangling out of the window?

5. Who is mature in the family? Why?

6. What do the piano scene and the butter scene say about Mary?

7. Do you think that Rex's backgorund has any effect on his parenting?

8. Why doesn't Mary want to teach?

9. What causes Lori and Jeannette's trip to NYC to be cancelled?

10. How are Rex and Mary stubborn when the kids are grown?

Key Quotations

"I wished I could perform a skin graft on Tinkerbell, but that would have meant cutting her into pieces. Even though her face was melted, she was still my favorite toy"(16).

"'Your father's the only one who can help himself,' Mom said. 'Only he knows how to fight his own demons'"(117).

“In my mind, Dad was perfect, although he did have what Mom called a bit of a drinking situation.”

Movie Trailer

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