Glass Castle was the Ball State Everybody Reads choice for freshmen this year which includes an author visit and is free to the public. I for one was very excited and made plans to go. Several Jay County Public Library Book Group members planned to go and I invited the Adams Central Literati members also. Eight of us went out to dinner and to hear her speak this last Monday evening.
She was really good. The focus of her speech seemed to be two-fold. First of all she believes that trials, hardships, and even failure can make you stronger. You can prevail and succeed but you must get a focus, make good decisions, and take responsibility. Secondly, when there are people around you that are different or strange try to be inclusive and understanding. Try not to judge. She did not simply regurgitate her stories (she assumed we all had read her book) but she did use some for examples to support or illuminate her ideas.
Listening to her speak it was apparent that she has come to terms with her background and no longer lets it be a source of shame. At first she said she forgave her parents but then she said it wasn't necessary because they didn't do anything wrong on purpose. That is to say they were just who they were, and they did the best they could. I had realized when I read the book that there was no reason to be so angry with the Walls, but I also know that in some circumstances it would have been hard not to get mad at them. We talked on the way home about the peculiarities of the parents and the grandparents of the Walls but we are educators not psychologists and we couldn't think of a specific type of mental illness or dysfunction that fit. We do think that simply calling them eccentric was not accurate. I detected a bit of a similarity between Mrs. Walls and Zippy's mother in A Girl Named Zippy. That is a good book too if you haven't read that.
She talked a bit about her mom who still lives in NYC as a "squatter," about her siblings, and about her most recent book, Half-broke Horses. It is apparent that this family is brilliant and they are survivors. I loved her speech and now I need to get a copy of her newest book and read that too.
Since this is an update on an old blog (Jan. 28, 2010) I went back to read it and discovered that many of my group didn't like the book when they first read it! Yikes, hope they changed their minds as they mulled it over. Great author, great book, great speech.