The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Book Review)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

My Thoughts:

I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.

I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.

This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Short Term 12 (2013) Review

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Short Term 12 (2013)

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Starring:
Brie Larson
John Gallagher, Jr.
Kaitlyn Dever
Rami Malek
Keith Stanfield
Kevin Hernandez
Melora Walters
Stephanie Beatriz
Lydia Du Veaux
Alex Calloway
Frantz Turner
Diana-Maria Riva

Running time: 96 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend.

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My Opinion:

I remember this movie had a lot of positive buzz when it was out & I’ve been meaning to watch it for a long time, especially after I then saw Brie Larson in a couple other movies & thought she was pretty fantastic. I thought she was the actual highlight of the somewhat mediocre 21 Jump Street & even of that weird Don Jon movie (which is pretty impressive as she only had one line). Oh, and she was good in The Spectacular Now (probably should have been the lead instead of Shailene Woodley).

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Well, Larson is great in Short Term 12. I’m surprised she hasn’t yet gotten the sort of attention that Jennifer Lawrence did for Winter’s Bone. I mean, I think she did get a bunch of awards for it but she’s still not as famous as Lawrence. Hopefully she’ll get the right sort of role that gets her more recognition. And this might sound weird but, hey – I’m a girl & I like seeing girls who look like regular people in movies for a change! She’s cute, obviously, but not some freakishly gorgeous supermodel.

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In Short Term 12, Larson plays a 20-something who works with a group of other young adults in a home for troubled teens. It’s a fairly heavy film but the characters are pretty well developed and you really do care about what will happen to each of them. You get to know several of the teens at the home but they mainly focus on the stories of two of them while we slowly learn more about Larson’s character’s background & how it affects her job and her life with her boyfriend, who also works at the group home. Her boyfriend is sweet & funny and they have what appears to be a great relationship. I’ve always said that I find it very hard to like a movie if I hate all the characters and Short Term 12 is the exact opposite of this. Even those who are in the home and are getting in fights, swearing & spitting at staff, etc, all have their reasons & just need people to be there for them. I liked everyone in this and hoped for a happy resolution for all of them. It’s not all “sad drama”, though – the boyfriend has a nice sense of humor & there are some heartwarming scenes. I was asked what other movies this is like and I couldn’t really think of one. Maybe something like Stand And Deliver and, hell, maybe even Dangerous Minds? But more “indie” and with a younger feel to it than those as everyone is in their early-20s or their teens in Short Term 12. I do think, if I’d seen this as a teenager, I’d have loved it & watched it over & over like I did with Stand By Me every day after school when I was 13.

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Summary:

Great performances & characters make Short Term 12 a fulfilling movie experience. It’s a bit heavy & a little sad but manages to be uplifting as well and gives us characters we care about. It doesn’t feel contrived & the people in it feel “real”. The director wrote this after working in a similar home just like Larson’s character, which is probably why the movie feels so genuine. Yeah, I thought this one was pretty good.

My Rating: 8/10

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