Mark Twain penned the philosophy “Truth is stranger than fiction,” in his travelogue Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World.
This notion is illustrated in shades of humor and heartbreak in Jeanette Wall’s memoir, The Glass Castle.
Walls steers the reader through her nomadic childhood with the kind of turbulence and immediacy that left me feeling the need to buckle in from page one.
Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls, cared little about conventional child rearing and hauled their four children from desert town to mountain town searching for gold and other pipe dreams, often living in squalor. The title of the book comes from Rex’s promise to his family to build them a Glass Castle, as soon as they find the perfect place for it.
Rex is a wild and brilliant inventor but grapples with drinking and gambling addictions as a result of his rugged past. Rose Mary gave up the luxuries of her family’s wealth to marry Rex, captivated by the excitement that follows him. Despite having a college education, Rose Mary would rather paint and sleep than hold down a job to provide food for the family. And what little money they manage so save, Rex often confiscates to fuel his week long benders.
At first, Jeanette and her siblings believe the tall tales and promises of their adventurous father, but as hunger and homelessness loom, soon the four children have to work together to save each other from their perilous parents.
The Glass Castle is miraculous not just in the sense that Walls comes out alive, but that she writes about her family with such generosity and love that we are able to read her tale as an adventure more than a tribulation.
Pick up this marvelous memoir from the Sioux City Public Library and check out just how strange the truth can be.