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Could you imagine having lived in more than 15 different places by the time you were ten years old?

This is the basis of The Glass Castle, a memoir by American author Jeannette Walls. In it, she documents her life from age three up until her early twenties, telling the story about her dysfunctional family.

As a child, Walls, her two sisters and her brother, along with their father and mother, lived life like nomads. They constantly moved from place to place all over the Western United States, living in everything from their car to hotels and even an old railroad depot. With each new place, the Walls children had adventures that made life fun for them at times. However, it was their parents that made life difficult. Their father, who worked as an engineer and entrepreneur, was an intelligent and inspiring person who cared for his children, but had a drinking and gambling problem. Their mother, an artist, took little responsibility in providing for her family at times and disapproved of society, depriving the development of her children. Combined, the two would constantly fight and create an unstable atmosphere for her family.

Through all of this, Walls and her siblings became self-sufficient and eventually escaped to New York City, putting their rough past behind them.

I found this memoir especially engaging because of Walls’ writing structure and content. Instead of inserting dates at the beginning of each chapter, such as “June 23, 1967,” Walls instead chose to divide her book into five sections, with each section having a certain number of chapters. By doing this, she made the memoir feel more like a novel and less like a map of her early life. Also, unlike most memoirs, she refrained from jumping around in time with each chapter, keeping the time frame consistent. This made it a lot easier to read.

Her content is another story. Walls’ writing has extensive detail and precise description. Although her sentences can be a little long and wordy, it works because each word has a meaning. There is no filler whatsoever.

Walls uses dialogue the right way. Each situation has dialogue in it and creates a better understanding for the reader. Instead of telling, it’s showing the magnitude of problems. It’s amazing how Walls is able to recall all these events with such clarity You feel as if you’re right there with her, seeing everything that’s happening.

Lastly, I admire Walls because of her courage  it took to write this book. Not everybody is willing to write down their personal history, including dark details about their family’s problems, and put it out there for the world to see. I recommend reading it and seeing what I mean. And, you’ll find out the background behind the title.

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