The Glass Castle movie was released in 2017 and quickly became one of my absolute favorites. I saw the movie originally because of the big name cast, but instantly became immensely intrigued by the ridiculousness of the family and the way they lived. Naturally, when I couldn’t get enough of the movie, I found myself reading the book by the real Jeannette Walls.
The book starts out with similar stories that we see in the movie, such as the fire accident while Jeanette was cooking hot dogs, and hospital escapades that followed. Then we hear more about how they move from city to city, including living in Las Vegas and a variety of other cities, which was condensed into a montage in the movie. I quickly noticed the pattern in the book that temporary solutions often became long-term, and the children are usually the ones who suffer the most.
The general feel of both the movie and the book are similar, and it’s easy to find times where you want to laugh along with the insane antics and funny anecdotes. However, by the end of the book, I absolutely hated both the mom and the dad. Just like the kids, I grew frustrated by the selfishness of the father’s alcoholism and the mother’s laziness and inability to care for anything other than herself. It’s easy to love Woody and Naomi in the film for their charm and familiarity, but the selfishness of the real individuals was shocking. No matter how hungry the kids were, their father would spend any money he could at the bars. No matter how much money the kids were able to save on their own, their dad would find a way to steal every single penny and drink it down. And even when the kids were able to leave their rundown place in Welch, the parents still followed them to New York City and attempted to mooch off of everything they had made for themselves there.
Not only does the movie downplay some of the evilness if the parents, it also skips over the development of little Maureen. I feel as though both of these things were done to protect the author’s loved ones on the big screen. I certainly wish the movie had included more on young Maureen in NYC, including when she stabbed her mom before running off to California. However, it was nice to have the parallel of last scene, where they sit down together for Thanksgiving dinner and remember their father fondly, in both the movie and the book.
Part of the reason that I was so interested in reading the book comes from one of the real photos that was shown at the end of the movie, where there is a family picture that includes someone that may or may not be a drag queen, or is just wearing a whole lot of make-up. From reading the book, I was actually not able to determine who this person was. I’ve done extensive google searching, and still cannot determine the answer, so if anyone has some information on this subject please reach out to me! (I’ve also sent an inquiry in to Jeannette Wall’s email and Facebook page, so we’ll see if someone replies.) UPDATE: I got a reply from a representative of the company that works with Jeannette Walls! He was able to confirm for me that this was individual is Maureen, which furthers my point that I would have loved to learn more about her path in life after leaving the family back East.
You certainly go through a lot of emotions while hearing her retelling of stories, which is much how you feel while watching the film. There are, of course, many stories that make the book and not the movie. Overall, however, it stays true to the message – recounts of funny stories mixed in with some truly sad memories that will make your heart drop.
If you haven’t yet seen The Glass Castle, it’s currently available on Amazon Prime and probably many other places as well. It stars Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts and is guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings. HIGH RECOMMEND – both the movie and the book.
Thanks for reading!