I was absolutely and positively blank after reading this book. The entire time I was reading it I would pause after each chapter and stare off with my jaw hanging open in complete shock.
This startling memoir starts from Jeannette Walls early childhood and follows her to the present day and each and every moment of her life is an adventure (as her mother likes to have it). A good adventure, I'm not so sure. One that helped build incredibly strong individuals (Jeannette Walls and her siblings)? Most definitely.
This haunting story left me so shocked because it's all true. It's a sad story, heartbreaking, and frightening in some ways. The book is as much of Jeannette Walls memoir as it is her parents. Her father who is an insanely intelligent, loving father but immediately turns into a beast when he hits the bottle (which is most of the time). Destroying precious moments and doing off the wall and dangerous things, fighting with his wife, screaming in churches, the list goes on and on. Jeannette's mother was an artistic free spirit of sorts, loving adventure and picking up to go whenever the mood struck, and had little care of truly mothering her children.
Both parents seem unsuitable to have children and yet four children they had. The children mothered one another and took care of each other much better then their own parents did. Foraging for food through dumpsters and local farms since their parents spent the last of their cash on booze and art supplies. Creating elaborate ways to keep themselves looking presentable and clothed (such as using a marker on her skin so that people wouldn't see the skin peeking through the holes in her jeans, Jeannette Walls should have a medal for being so creative, even creating her own 'braces' for her crooked teeth).
Sleeping in the desert, hopping from place to place and doing the 'skedaddle' whenever the bill collectors came calling, moving into their dead grandmothers house which is large and glamorous and then letting it fall to pieces around them all, and then taking a broken down car all the way to the east coast from the west.
The children were beaten up and abused by classmates for their otherworldly- strange appearances and incredible level of poverty.
From the very first pages you know Jeannette Walls has succeeded in life. You can see her on MSNBC and she lives in both Virginia and New York City. But, her parents are destitutes living on the streets of NYC while their children prosper. It's not as if the children ran off to make their lives better and ignored their parents existence. They tried to help their parents but their parents refused all forms of help. They wanted to be homeless. They wanted that life. It gave them their much needed sense of 'adventure'.
This book is captivating and mind boggling. As sad as it is empowering. I feel that if anyone were to ever say "I can't do it" I should wave this book in their face. Here are a group of children who were incredibly poor and they worked to set their lives right. Two of Jeannette's siblings and she herself made names for themselves and now live comfortably.
There is no question as to why this book remained on The New York Times bestsellers list for over a year and has received numerous awards. I had this book on loan, but now I intend to buy it, and I intend on reading it over and over.