Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever. Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home. What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms. For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
5 out of 5 stars
This book is a suggested read for one of the Early Childhood classes I’m taking in college right now. If we read the book and attend two discussions on it, we’ll get extra credit on our final grade, so I decided to go ahead and read it. I am so glad I did. I think this is a book that everyone should read.
I love the way Jeannette tells her story. She captures your interest from the very beginning and holds you until the end of the book.
While I loved this book, I really hated it also. Well, not the book specifically, but the situations that were described in the book. I found myself appalled, horrified, disgusted, and just downright angry more times than I could count. I was really disappointed in the father for not being more of a provider and for not being able to keep himself sober. He didn’t even try. And the mother? Wow. I just really don’t even have any words for her. She was incredibly selfish and didn’t deserve to have children at all.
I really admire Jeannette and her siblings for getting themselves out of that situation and making something of themselves, despite the conditions they grew up in. I felt really sad for Maureen, but I think making the move she did is what was best for her. After the way Jeannette grew up and all of the things she and her siblings went through, it honestly amazed me that she had any compassion and love for her parents at all. I’m not sure that I would have.
This book will absolutely rip your heart out and anger you for sure, but I still think it’s worth the read.