Thursday, September 07, 2006

NOVEL: The Glass Castle

I just finished The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, and I couldn't put it down (this being posted a mere week after finishing my last book). I loved every second of reading it, but I don't think I'm not sure if I would read it again. I probably will, since the book was an impulse buy while I was standing in line at the campus bookstore (I also bought a math textbook- I'd say the novel was a better read), but it's not something I see myself picking up again and again.

Jeannette Walls is a freelance writer and regular columnist for, and
she composed these memoirs- her true life story- upon urging from her husband, also a writer. The book chronicles her transient childhood, living below the poverty line with her drunkard father, artistic and free-spirited mother, and 3 siblings. With as much as she's been through, the conditions she's lived in, and the experiences she's had (many caused directly or indirectly by those who should protect and love), Jeannette tells her story in a surprisingly nonjudgemental, even merciful way, without an ounce of self-pity or bitterness.

Jeannette's father can't keep a job for more than 6 months, and frequently wastes away the families little money on alcohol. On several occasions he puts various members of the family in danger and even tries to push his wife out of a window. But when he's sober, he is charismatic and captivating, an obviously loving father who, in his own way, wants the best for his children. He doesn't provide in practical ways, though, and moves the family from town to town to avoid the law. Jeannette's mother is a flighty artist who doesn't believe in discipline and loves adventure. A few times, she acts responsibly and takes teaching jobs here and there, but on the whole her behavior is selfish and she chooses to sleep and paint while her children go hungry.

It's not so much Jeanneatte's writing talent that makes this book so good- it's an absolutely absorbing story and she tells it with benevolence and humanity. She exemplifies the old cliche about not being able to control your circumstances, only your response. She took what life gave her and made the best of it, and probably wouldn't change her experiences. I got the sense from her written word that she doesn't regret growing up the way she did- it is what it is and she's made for herself what she wanted. The only reason I don't think I would enjoy this so much a second time is because I already know the story- perhaps after several years, I'll pick it up and love it all over again. I powered through the pages of The Glass Castle in about 5 days, and I would definitely recommend it. It was worth the time I spent reading.

On that note, I've felt particularly convicted about the way I spend my time. Stephen and I were talking about feeling spiritually numb, and he suggested that, since I spend so much time reading, maybe I should commit more of that time to reading something that is spiritually enriching. He's right, I should... But I can't find anything that captures my attention the way my favorite works of fiction do. I wish that the bible, or devotionals, or studies, or even Christian fiction would draw me in, but it doesn't. I feel like this is a catch-22. In order to be drawn in, I need to be stirred up to desire spiritual things. In order for that desire to be stirred up, I need to be spending time pursuing spiritual things. A little bit will yield even more. I just have to sacrifice some time to press in and do it, even though it's not entertaining. If I spent a 10th of the time praying as I do just reading for pleasure... I think I would experience a transformation.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable will of God." Romans 12:2 NKJV


suzanne said...

Thanks for the info about The Glass Castle. It sounds very interesting...I love a good read. Unfortunately, I feel the same way about Christian fiction and for me its the same with Christian music... However, several of my friends have read the books "Captivating" and "Blue LIke Jazz" and say they are incredible. I haven't read them myself so this is kinda a blind recommendation, but my friends are pretty credible :)

RachelRenae said...

Suzanne, thanks for the tip! Actually, I've been wanting to read captivating for a while. I'll put those two books on my list. What kind of music do you listen to? I might be able to recommend some good Christian stuff.