I belong to two book clubs and, between the two of them, last month turned out to be a Jeannette Walls month. There was no consultation; it just happened that each club picked one of her books.
The first pick was The Glass Castle, published in 2005. This is the author’s memoir outlining her erratic childhood and early adult life.
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.” (from the publisher)
The kindest thing I can say about the author’s parents is that they were incredibly unfit to be parents. Because of alcoholism, the father was seldom employed and the mother was so disconnected she didn’t even bother to feed her children. The abject neglect and poverty depicted in this memoir was painful. It was so painful I only made it half-way through the book. In my opinion, what the Walls did to their children was unforgivable. The author saw it differently however. She forgave her parents and seems to see them more favorably than I did.
After that introduction to Jeannette Walls I wasn’t sure I wanted to read her second book, Half-Broke Horses. But, from the first page, I loved this story. Lily was born in a dugout in 1901 and grew to be a plucky young girl who handled whatever life threw at her. Lily experienced so many incredible adventures, especially for a young woman during that time period.
Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. Half-Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults. Lily learned to drive a car and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one of whom is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls. (from the publisher)
Lily made a wonderful character for this fictional novel based on the author’s grandmother’s life. At several points during the book I wanted to suspend all belief. I found it hard to believe that Lily had actually done all that the author said she did. I can understand how that happened. This is, after all, an oral family history. As each person tells the story it gets changed a little bit each time. But then, if Lily only did half of what’s in this novel, she’s still an amazing person.
If you haven’t read Half-Broke Horses yet, I seriously recommend you give it a try.