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Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict". Cooking a meal that would be consumed in 15 minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town - and the family - Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to MSNBC.com, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Kmrsy on 11-30-13
When I began listening to this memoir, I became disgusted and enraged; I almost stopped a couple of hours in, but I kept at it and I'm very glad I did. Like many other people who've commented on this book, I thought of the parents as selfish and the treatment of the children as child abuse. But you get a little further in and you start thinking mom is bipolar and dad is a genius whose brain got pickled in the womb. This doesn't justify their behavior; it simply helps to explain some of it. They both had a screw loose.
Some people did not like Walls' narration. I felt that she read it much the way she felt it as a child. Again, it took me a while to come to this realization, but I think this helped make it feel more true.
I found it amazing that Rex and Rose Mary found each other. The life they created was normal for them, maybe not so for you and me, but it was their life and unfortunately their kids had to go along with it. Even if they'd sold the land in TX, They would have found a way to burn through the $ with little benefit to the kids. I do think, though, that Lori, Jeannette, and Brian got more from their parents in some ways than many of us do in "normal" families. My dad never gave me a planet. Maureen, on the other hand, came along too late to reap the good stuff; the parents were burned out by then.
Just as Jeannette's sociology teacher thought she knew it all, so too,do some of the "normal" people of this world. It does really take all kinds. Not everyone follows the same set of rules. I really appreciate Walls giving us the opportunity to see her world from her viewpoint, from her normal.
63 of 66 people found this review helpful
By Mark on 11-22-13
Perfect memoir, perfect narration
Any additional comments?
Memoir of growing up in extreme poverty in Battle Mountain, Nevada; Phoenix; and a tiny coal town in West Virginia. What makes it so fascinating aside from one harrowing adventure after another is how damaged yet intellectually sharp her parents are as they haphazardly care for four kids. The scenes involving cheetah-petting and traveling in the back of an enclosed U-Haul truck across Nevada will stay with me a long time. A classic.
31 of 32 people found this review helpful