Author: Jeanette Walls
Publisher: Virago Press
Publication Date: 4 May 2006
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist's journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, 'brilliant' but alcoholic parents. At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the 'mundane, middle class existence' she had always craved. In her apartment, overlooked by 'a portrait of someone else's ancestor' she recounts poignant remembered images of star watching with her father, juxtaposed with recollections of irregular meals, accidents and police-car chases and reveals her complex feelings of shame, guilt, pity and pride toward her parents
This book was absolutely amazing. I really can't believe Jeannette had a childhood like the one she describes in this book.
This memoir focuses on the Walls' children's non-conventional upbringing. It includes a father who is an alcoholic who cannot hold down a steady job and a mother who is an artist who refuses to and hates work. Despite this the parents refuse welfare because of their 'hippyish' unconventional values and get into mountains of debt, resulting in performing the 'skedaddle' moving and travelling to a lot of different homes and places, resulting in loads of different experiences.
What I truly loved about this book was that it started off being told in an almost dreamlike and rose-coloured way which was exactly how a young child would view it at that time. Jeanette's dad was her hero despite his many flaws, and the reader can really feel that despite the family not having much money, stability or material things, there was a strong sense of togetherness and love.
As Jeannette grows up the way she views her family and her parents in particular change and we are told in much more detail the harsh reality Jeannette and her siblings had to go through and the situation becomes at times really tragic but still holds an element of hope. Despite this I loved the tenacity Jeannette and her siblings had to show from a young age, they weren't victims but were truly strong and resilient, making the best of their situations.
I devoured this book in 2 days, it was brilliant and I would highly recommend it to anyone who would be interested in reading it.