The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

A Memoir

Book - 2005
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette's brilliant and charismatic father captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered."--Back cover.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, c2005
Branch Call Number: 362.82 W215g
Characteristics: 288 p. ; 24 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 23, 2020

This was an absorbing look into a woman's storied childhood as well as a lesson in overcoming personal adversity. A well told tale that is hard to put down.

Oct 30, 2019

The Glass Castle is a truly astonishing memoir following the life of Jeanette Walls. This novel begins with Jeanette’s early childhood consisting of many unbelievable events and life on the go. The poor conditions the family constantly found themselves in coupled with chronic instability, made for a difficult childhood. Her alcoholic father and unmotivated mother were little help for a steady income and food for Jeanette and her siblings. However, even with the odds against them, the Walls children were able to make lives for themselves in their late teens at the end of the novel. I would highly recommend this novel.

Oct 03, 2019

Glass Castle is on the reading list for my 9th grade grandson. It looked interesting, so we, as grandparents, decided to read it. The first book for my English class in 9th grade (back in the Dark Ages) was Johnny Tremain. It was not at all challenging (I read it all on the first day and then had to try to stay awake for the next several weeks while the class plowed through it), although I now understand it was an award-winning book for teens. This autobiography is much more challenging, and I suspect that some parents may find portions of the book and some of the language offensive. For those who have read Westover’s “Educated,” written ten years later, there is one similarity. In both cases the author survives a difficult childhood, but the difficulties faced are wildly different. One family shuns education, while the other honors it. The writing is clear and straight ahead, making it almost possible to identify with the author. We liked this one so much that we are now reading Walls’ “Half Broke Horses.”

Sep 04, 2019

'The Glass Castle is a book that is going to make you reflect. It's going to make you think of what you have and appreciate that you have it.'

This was another read that I had to complete for my book club- this one came as a recommendation from my manager though. I had heard of this book before and everything that I had heard had been positive- so I was intrigued to read it myself; and like my other book club reads- the club pushed me to finally read it.

I'll be honest, the first couple pages of the book that take place when Jeanette is grown up I didn't like and it had me thinking 'O no, now I have to read something like this for the next month'- but then the book transitioned and next thing you knew it Jeanette was 3. From that moment on the book had me in it's grasps. There are so many things in this book that continuously had me thinking: 'That did not just happen??' , 'What the heck are they thinking??' and ultimately ' What the actual heck is happening?!'.
'The Glass Castle' by Jeanette Walls was a book that I loved. I loved that the story was so interesting, I loved that there were so, so many parts of this book that got me mad, and I loved that I was able to share this book with my book club.
There were so many things about this book that I loved. I enjoyed the pace, the story and the messages throughout it. At some point I was the re-read this novel and dissect it further- I think that's why I'm so excited for Megan to read it too; that way we can discuss and rant together.
I think the biggest eye opener of the novel was realizing that there were and still are kids that are raised this way; and although Jeanette and her siblings got out of it- there are a lot of other children do not.
It was crazy to think that there are 3 years old's out there, cooking their own hotdogs; that there are parents who will dismiss and animal in front of their kids because they're being too much of a pain; that there are kids out there who's parents take their money and there are kids out there who are sexually abused and then blamed for what happened.

I will recommend this book in a heartbeat to anyone who is looking for a reads that is going to make them gasp in shock, feel guilty and ultimately feel the desire to protect those around you.


I really enjoyed reading Jeanette Wall’s memoir, The Glass Castle. Walls was a fantastic storyteller, allowing her readers to experience her childhood the way she did. While her story was her own, the journey she embarked on provided a new look into poverty, family, and the resilience of an individual. I really appreciated the manner in which Walls described her experience. Despite her childhood being made up of disappointment, instability, and hardship, Wall’s portrayed her life without demonstrating self-pity or regret. I liked that she demonstrated the complexity of human relationships and love. The story was funny, sad, exciting, and sometimes difficult to stomach. Although, it was overall one of the best books I’ve ever read and a must read for every person. Emily, grade 12, of the Yorba Linda Teen Book Bloggers

Apr 11, 2019

I know my comment is contrary to everything written below, but I am not writing this to be contrarian. Rather because I think my disagreement is valid and important.

I enjoyed reading this book very much. But about half-way through I started realizing that this memoir is very lop-sided. This is entirely a self-interested memoir. The author apparently believes that she and her siblings are remarkable because 1. they brought themselves up solely by their bootstraps, and 2. they had an unusually dysfunctional family, and 3. their parents' parenting philosophy was unusually dysfunctional.

I don't agree with any of those assessments. To start with, both parents clearly loved each other and their children. This is already way more than many children get from their families.
Next, all 4 children were given the opportunity to bond with and support their siblings. Again, many children lose their siblings when they are taken into "the system."
Next, these parents were highly intelligent and educated. They home-schooled their children to such a high level that the children always placed above their age group when they were tested in normal schools.
In short, the family was far from completely dysfunctional.
Yes, the parents dressed the kids in thrift-store clothing. But nowadays this is recognized as an ecologically sound practice. I think it is very telling that the author's vaunted "first good job" was to write the "society" column: i.e., which rich people wore which luxury clothes, to show off at which "society" event. Not something I think deserves much praise. Certainly a valid reaction to her impoverished childhood, but it is a job that reinforces very shallow values.
I have many more objections, but would just like to say that this book does a great disservice to the parents. And I will note that one of the most functional siblings did not want her sister to publish this book. Perhaps because she doesn't agree that the parents were so awful and the children were so special?
2 final thoughts:
1. There is no universal definition of a completely functional family. Was your childhood perfect, were your parents perfect examples of selfless, omnipotent, emotionally balanced people? If you are a parent, have you never made a selfish decision? Do we not believe alcoholism is a disease, exacerbated by poverty?
2. How much sacrifice do parents owe their children? The mother was a very hard-working, albeit self-taught artist. Should she have had to sacrifice that completely because she had children? We venerate artists like Vincent Van Gogh, who doggedly plugged away at his art without ever earning more than pittance. Do only "great artists" get applauded for their hard work? How do you know if you are a "great artist" who should keep on working in the face of poverty and anonymity? Is this perhaps a gender issue? Men can be unpaid artists, but if women have children, they can't?

Mar 26, 2019

A skilfully written memoir of a complicated family with hidden talent, mental deficiency and toughtless neglect on the parents' part. It is a wonder that the children who practically raised themselves, became well functioning adults. It is written without a trace of self pity. An excellent book for discussion about social, psychological, educational issues. I was thinking about it for weeks after I read it.

Mar 15, 2019

One of the most readable memoirs of dysfunction I've ever read. Funny, tender, solemn and true. Four children raised, sort of, by a father with a "little bit of a drinking situation" and a Mother who prefers being homeless because "it's an adventure".
I am a slow reader and usually need the full borrowing period to finish up a book or two but I knocked this one out in 3 days.

Feb 23, 2019

Her story gave me a lot to think about. Along with other such memoirs about escaping deleterious family situations---Hillbilly Elegy and Educated are two popular ones right now---I'm fascinated and repulsed by the lunatic father. Despite some genuinely admirable qualities, Rex Walls just can't get past his paranoid and grandiose delusions. That his daughter Jeanne managed to discover reality and escape the fantasy world of her parents is a testament to the power of her own intelligence, of enlightened reading, and of timely mentorship.

Dec 17, 2018

A highly entertaining memoir. I loved reading it. The first half is about the family's life in the west desert areas of the US (Nevada, California, and Arizona). The second half is about them in Welch, West Virginia, and later New York. The large print version of the book isn't missing anything except the picture of Jeannette's parents on their wedding day, which the regular version of the book includes.

"One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. 'You'd be destroying what makes it special,' she said. 'It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty.'"
The book (and therefore the author's life) wouldn't be interesting without everything that this author went through. Her parents didn't have much money, but they were smart and talented and resourceful. It's not like the parents intended to neglect or abuse their kids. They were doing things the way they thought was right. And despite their poverty and hardships, their kids grew up to be intelligent, strong, hard working, and successful. The kids didn't wallow in self-pity and hopelessness. They learned from their parents' mistakes and chose to make something of their lives.

The mother says about her homelessness in NY: "It's sort of the city's fault. They make it too easy to be homeless. If it was really unbearable, we'd do something different."
I think that's a good thing to keep in mind when trying to help the poor. Because helping them too much just encourages them to stay right where they are and not try to improve their lives at all. Jeanette's parents could have improved their lives if they wanted to, but they chose not to. The father was addicted to alcohol, and the mother was addicted to living a life of laziness and leisure, painting. Without these addictions, they would've been much better parents.
It's easy to look down on them, but look at yourself in the mirror before you judge them. Do you drink alcohol? Then you're choosing to take the chance that you might end up exactly like Jeannette's drunk father. Once you're addicted, it's hard to stop. So before you get addicted, make the smarter choice by choosing not to drink at all. Otherwise you're a hypocrite. My father was an alcoholic too (and died from it), and that's why I choose never to drink. Alcohol ruins lives, and this book is just one of many examples of that fact.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Dec 17, 2018

bell5133 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Dec 08, 2018

beijes thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

May 18, 2017

jmli thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Aug 15, 2015

ecarr1212 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Nov 17, 2014

MADKC4Ever thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

ellegibson Jul 17, 2014

ellegibson thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

orange_squirrel_4 Aug 23, 2013

orange_squirrel_4 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Ninja_Kevin Jun 17, 2012

Ninja_Kevin thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary
Oct 09, 2018

The Glass Castle is a story about the author's rather dysfunctional childhood and how she, along with her siblings, overcame challenges from childhood through adulthood. From the very first page, she is able to capture exactly how she felt in pivotal moments perfectly, allowing the reader to feel exactly as she felt - embarrassed, sad, afraid, and, in some cases, happy.

As children, the Walls took care of themselves. Their parents, under the premise of making them strong, often did questionable and downright abusive things. The story is spread across the author's entire childhood and ventures into her adult life, and it's an amazing tale of how her perception of her mother and father changes throughout the years. Despite her troubles, the love she felt for her parents never faltered.

Anyone who grew up in a dysfunctional household or with an alcoholic parent will be able to relate to the way the author simultaneously loves, doubts, and sometimes loathes her father. Anyone who grew up with a self-absorbed mother will relate to the way the author explains her own mother's eccentric, self-involved, and somehow still loving ways. It's one of the most relatable books I've ever read.

May 18, 2017

The story revolves mostly around the childhood of the author. It describes the nomadic lifestyle of the Walls and how the children have learned to grow without their parents' support. The Glass Castle is mainly telling the dysfunctional connections in this dysfunctional family.

Jun 19, 2015

A journalist remembers her challenging, unconventional and impoverished childhood & the family with whom she shared these challenges.

Bonavista May 06, 2011

I loved that she went through so much as a child and teenager but still held the faith the whole time and came out of it. I think, a better person for it.

carlakacz May 03, 2011

This was a very intriguing book to read, a glimpse into someones life that is almost unbelievable.

Feb 16, 2011

Remarkable memoir of resilence and redemption and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeanette's brillant and charismatic father catured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishones and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn't want the responsibility of raising a family. The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed and protected one another and eventually found their way to New York.Their parents followed them choosing to be homeless even as their children propsered.


Add a Quote
Sep 20, 2019

“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” - Jeanette Walls

Sep 20, 2019

“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.” - Jeanette Walls

May 18, 2017

"It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty." - Rose Mary Wells

Nov 17, 2014

"I'm not upset because I'll miss you," Mom said. "I'm upset because you get to go to New York and I'm stuck here. It's not fair."


Add Notices
Aug 04, 2017

Coarse Language: Jeanette's father does tend to cuss frequently.

May 18, 2017

Sexual Content: 2 somewhat sexual scenes in regards to the protagonist.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at HPL

To Top