Musings from Mama Bird
I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.
Jeannette Walls opens her acclaimed memoir, The Glass Castle, with this compelling paragraph. Just like the millions of readers who kept her book on the New York Times bestseller list for at least a hundred weeks, I, too, was drawn into her extremely moving story with this first sentence, one that invites readers into her family. I think the book review that best describes it in my opinion came from a critic writing for The Village Voice:
A spare and lovely memoir…The Glass Castle ‘s power stems from its childlike perspective and unsentimental prose.
I won’t go into detail here in case you haven’t read it, except to say that her “eccentric” parents were at times smart and lovable, but mostly neglectful, selfish, and borderline abusive. What I truly appreciate about Ms. Walls’ memoir is that unlike similar books of this particular genre, hers recounts truly horrible experiences she endured as a child without going into such detail that would prevent me from reading it each night this last week before I went to bed.
She also does not martyr herself, another aspect I find endearing. A truly gifted and inspiring writer, Ms. Walls recounts various childhood events in a simple, yet elegant prose that is detailed and honest without attacking her parents or making her readers hate them.
In one online interview, she talks about her memoir and tells us she is surprised when some readers characterize her narrative voice as being angry. That surprises me as well, for I found her voice to be factual and honest, as well as affectionate and forgiving.
Ms. Walls proves to be a good teacher for someone like me, someone who is drafting her own memoir that will focus on her relationship with her mother. I have learned from The Glass Castle how not to indict or alienate readers from my mother, but rather to write with a true adult perspective that does not use the proverbial mighty pen as a weapon that could potentially destroy my mother’s (and other family members’) reputation. (Of course, to try to equate anything in my childhood with what Ms. Wells and her siblings endured would also be a lie.)
If you have not read The Glass Castle, I strongly endorse it. If you have read it, I would love to know what you think.
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