This is the first time of many that Jeannette's parents fail to adequately take care of her and her three siblings, leading to a lifetime of neglect, hunger, and injuries. At first Jeannette views their carefree lifestyle as a series of adventures with her larger-than-life dad who is always dreaming up the next big plan or scheme and her artistic mother. As the children grow older it becomes more apparent that, as her father's drinking increases and their mother's depression worsens, they will have to fend for themselves. The author doesn't flinch from describing living in squalid conditions in homes with ceilings caving in, no indoor plumbing, and no way to keep the house warm in winter. Although this could have been just a story of the author whining about her life, she does try to balance the difficulties with her love for her parents, particularly her father, and her eventual disillusionment and anger. A deeply moving story of two parents who choose to live life in an unconventional way and four siblings who scrape and scrounge to survive it and eventually break free.
Book Club is reading this for the 2017-2018 school year.
A Read-A-Like for this book would be Will You Love Me? by Cathy Glass
This story is written from the author's perspective as well, however, it differs in that she is the adult in the story describing the child's life before coming to live with her and then while under Cathy's care. While similar in theme, as the children in both The Glass Castle and Will You Love Me? suffer from neglect, the stories are different in style and situation. The author, Cathy, writes more in the style of a report than a story, yet she doesn't fail to capture the reader's interest and quickly taps into our sense of compassion for her young charges; in this case, little Lucy, who has never truly been cared for by anyone. Although Lucy came on to the radar of England's Social Services at the young age of six months, she feel through the cracks repeatedly. She was in and out of living situations with her mother, who seemed to suffer from depression and a general inability to take care of herself, let alone her daughter; then a stepfather and his rotating girlfriends; and different foster family situations with varying degrees of care. At first we see that lonely little Lucy, terrified of strangers due to early bad experiences of living life on the streets and various crash pads with her mother, is open to affection and care. After years of being shuffled around and feeling like no one cares and no situation is permanent she becomes more angry and sullen. As you read the story, your heart just breaks for Lucy as you realize all of the times her life could have gone differently if someone would have just stepped in.
If this story appeals to you, the MMHS Library has several other stories about children Cathy Glass has fostered over her long career as a professional carer (in England foster parents are called carers).