A beautiful walk around Silver Lake today for the Rochester Walkie Talkies! It was mostly a Talkie about things other than “The Glass Castle,” but a little discussion was held. I just finished the book and am still processing my anger at the parents. One of the discussion questions below is about her ability to be nonjudgmental about her parents. Wow! that’s hard for me. I do have empathy for them – the addiction, the mental illness – and am amazed that the children turned out at all, but I still am mad. As I said while walking, I didn’t find the book to be depressing at all and I could even compare it to “Angela’s Ashes,” although I LOVED “Angela’s Ashes.” Frank McCourt was a true character and his voice in that story is so interesting. Less “matter of fact” and more “colorful.”
Was it as hard for everyone else (!) to be nonjudgmental about the laissez faire way of parenting they practiced? Is it really laissez faire?
Anyhoo… must read a bit before bed, but wanted to get my Monday night blog in!
Off to read!
Caution! It is likely that the following questions will reveal, or at least allude to, key plot details. Therefore, if you haven’t yet read this book, but are planning on doing so, you may wish to proceed with caution to avoid spoiling your later enjoyment.
- Though The Glass Castle is brimming with unforgettable stories, which scenes were the most memorable for you? Which were the most shocking, the most inspiring, the funniest?
- Discuss the metaphor of a glass castle and what it signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn’t believe he’ll ever build it? (p. 238).
- The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severely at age three, and her father dramatically takes her from the hospital: “You’re safe now” (p. 14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how does it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?
- Rex Walls often asked his children, “Have I ever let you down?” Why was this question (and the required “No, Dad” response) so important for him — and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?
- Jeannette’s mother insists that, no matter what, “life with your father was never boring” (p. 288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?
- Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an “excitement addict”? (p. 93).
- Though it portrays an incredibly hardscrabble life, The Glass Castle is never sad or depressing. Discuss the tone of the book, and how do you think that Walls achieved that effect?
- Describe Jeannette’s relationship to her siblings and discuss the role they played in one another’s lives.
- In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?
- The two major pieces of the memoir — one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia — feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family — and on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book’s tone?
- Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to their parents? Why do you think this is?
- What character traits — both good and bad — do you think that Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette’s life?
- For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgmental?
- Like Mary Karr’s Liars’ Club and Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’, Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle tells the story of a wildly original (and wildly dysfunctional) family with humor and compassion. Were there other comparable memoirs that came to mind? What distinguishes this book?
It’s been a blur of busy-ness this last week and I finally finished March O Magazine! But have barely started on “The Glass Castle”! At least it’s been a fun busy! Watching the kids, watching Bon Jovi, watching “Whip It,” watching the Des Moines Derby Dames, watching the highway go by under my tires… 🙂
I have been listening to an audiobook during all that car time. It’s certainly not great literature, but light and breezy. It takes a lot of time to listen to an audiobook – this one is about 10 hours. I’m listening to too many great podcasts lately so my book listening has dramatically decreased. As an ‘uber’ visual person, it really is funny how I have trained my brain to listen to audiobooks. I’ve listened to a lot of memorable stories, including “Bel Canto,” “The Poisonwood Bible,” “The Red Tent,” “The Life of Pi,” and many books by Bill Bryson. I was having trouble finding books at the Rushford Public Library that I wanted to listen to, as I’d already read many of those that I was interested in, so it’s fun to download audiobooks to my iPod from the Rochester Public Library. I haven’t downloaded any great and memorable books yet, but I’ll keep looking!
Any favorite or memorable audiobooks?
Well, off to read!