The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is a stunning memoir of growing up with parents who couldn't or wouldn't keep a household together. Walls' family was typically on the run from the law, whether a result of her father's money schemes or the potential intervention of state authorities in how the children were being raised. It was normal to her, and she conveys that normalcy by offering a reporter's objectivity on the subject of her life. Even when she records outrageously hurtful or selfish acts committed by her mother or father, she does so without comment, indulging neither anger nor self-pity. She was, really, an abused child, with abuses too numerous to count, from simple neglect to near-starvation (while her mother indulged her own sweet tooth, hiding candy bars) to sexual molestation (under the eye of her father, who took her along to bars to distract his marks while he bested them at poker).

The first line was enough to show me that I had to read this book:

"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."

Even more compelling than her toughness is her honesty. Walls hid her past from those around her for 20 years, moving in affluent circles of New York society. Her parents, through their own choices and through being unwilling to accept her financial help, remained homeless in NYC. It would be a relief to finally speak the truth after all that time.

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