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.Now, when I say this book is "great", I absolutely do not think that it's a good thing to read about the childhood of these poor children...just to be clear.
It was well written and baffling. I get lost in memoirs and forget they're real stories sometimes but whenever I find a book that truly baffles me or shows me a perspective I never would have been able to conjure up myself, I appreciate it.
As I got towards the end of the book, I realized that the author still lives in New York and that I could run into her on the streets one day and not even realize it. What a crazy idea! That made the book even more real for me, despite the out of this world stories that her childhood presented. It's not everyday that a family like that can make it out alive in tact but it's pretty impressive how far Jeanette Walls has come since those days.
I can't decide between a 4.5/5. The ending was pretty bland but the rest of the book more than makes up for it.