Since I'm requiring 'Shroom and Lolli to write weekly book reports this summer, I thought I would hold myself to that same requirement. I'm a bit behind -- not in reading but in writing the reports.
The latest book I've read is called The Glass Castle and is a memoir and an incredible heart-wrenching but triumphant story of a girl's journey from destitute poverty to incredible success as a journalist for MSNBC.com and a New York Times bestselling author. Jeannette Wells begins her memoir when she is three year old cooking dinner for herself on a gas stove top - a typical task for this youngster in her rather dysfunctional family.
Jeannette is the second oldest of four children born to Rex and Rose Mary Wells. Both her parents are bright individuals with Rex being a well-read scholar in physics and her mom an artist with a teaching degree. Rex and Rose Mary are parents who would never grace the cover page of "Parenting" magazine or "Family Circle" and if anything, in this day and age, would have lost all parental rights for child neglect. Rex is an alcoholic who can't hold a job and Rose Mary is a childish immature woman who can't be bothered with the responsibilities of raising kids.
Clothing was meager, food was scarce, and "home" was a shack with no electricity or running water. In an excerpt from Jeannette's book, she writes about a time when the kids were surviving by eating trash out of the school cafeteria. Dad was off getting drunk and Mom was too busy painting to be concerned about her kids.
"One day while Brian [Jeannette's brother] and I were out scrounging around on the edge of our property, he picked up a piece of rotting lumber, and there among the pill bugs and night crawlers was a diamond ring. The stone was big. . . . We figured we could sell it and buy food . . . We brought the ring home and showed it to Mom. She held it up to the light, then said we needed to have it appraised. The next day she took the Trailways bus to Bluefield. When she returned, she told us it was in fact a genuine two-carat diamond . . . She was keeping it, she explained, to replace the wedding ring her mother had given her, the one Dad had pawned shortly after they got married.
"But Mom," I said, "that ring could get us a lot of food."
"That's true," Mom said, "but it could also improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food."
Is that just whacked?!?! What is amazing is that Jeannette tells this story without bitterness nor anger. Her narration is factual and somewhat removed. While she does express emotion in her recount, she and her siblings exhibit a type of understanding and maturity that most adults don't even have.
Jeannette's story is both a horrific story of four children who have to face incredible obstacles in order to survive. Their "beds" were pieces of cardboard on rope stretched taut over a 2x4 frame; their toilet was a yellow bucket in the kitchen which would be emptied outside once it got full; food was whatever they could scrounge up in the school trash cans and on rare occasions, a can of beans and a stick of butter.
Had this story ended in the poverty-stricken mining town of Welch, West Virginia, I would have been extremely depressed afterwards. However, Jeannette's story takes us all the way to her adult years - as an accomplished and recognized journalist living on Park Avenue in New York City. Despite the odds against her, Jeannette, along with her older sister and younger brother, are all able to be high-functioning adults capable of showing responsibility and maturity. Something that was not modeled for them at all.
What an amazing story. A must read--especially if you think you've had a pretty tough life.