Portrait of Jeannette Walls
5 x 7 inches (12.7 cm x 17.78 cm)
watercolor painting

I’m unable to leave a review of Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle on Amazon. I would have given this book three stars out of five, and perhaps that’s too many.

To her credit Walls writes well enough and gives good characterizations of her dysfunctional family. Structurally, she writes a competent memoir. My credit to her ends there, though I’m willing to discuss other opinions and am open to the possibility that I’m missing something here.

Her breezy style, maintained from beginning to end, bothered me from the beginning. She describes a father and mother who, to put it as bluntly and truthfully as necessary, are abusive, neglectful and socially irresponsible.

Perhaps her “through line” or message is the resilience of family, of herself and her siblings. Perhaps they, or at least she, was able to come through without permanent physical or emotional scars.

But what of those children who don’t, who don’t grow up to writers, journalists and gossip columnists for MSNBC, but instead wind up in prisons or institutions or die in the gutter from their responses to unresolved traumas of childhood?

By not holding her parents to account — I’m going beyond blame here, it’s not what I’m calling for, but accountability — she implicitly condones abuse. I’ve heard too often from damaged individuals “When I was a kid my daddy totally whipped my ass, but I turned out fine” and thus condone passing abuse forward. It seems to me Walls does the same thing.