Discuss the metaphor of the glass castle and what is signifies to Jeannette and her father. Why is it important that, just before leaving for New York, Jeannette tells her father that she doesn’t believe he’ll ever build it?
The first story Walls tells of her childhood is that of her burning herself severly at age three, and her father dramatically takers her from the hospital: “Your safe now” (p.14). Why do you think she opens with that story, and how dies it set the stage for the rest of the memoir?
Rex Walls often asked his children, “Have I ever let you down?” Why was this question (and the required, “No, Dad” response) so important for him – and for his kids? On what occasions did he actually come through for them?
Jeannette’s mother insists that, no matter what, “life with your father was never boring” (p.288). What kind of man was Rex Walls? What were his strengths and weaknesses, his flaws and contradictions?
Discuss Rose Mary Walls. What did you think about her description of herself as an “excitement addict”?(p.93)
Describe Jeannette’s relationship with her siblings and the role they played in each other’s lives.
In college, Jeannette is singled out by a professor for not understanding the plight of homeless people; instead of defending herself, she keeps quiet. Why do you think she does this?
The two major pieces of the memoir—one half set in the desert and one half in West Virginia—feel distinct. What effect did such a big move have on the family—an on your reading of the story? How would you describe the shift in the book’s tone?
Were you surprised to learn that, as adults, Jeannette and her siblings remained close to her parents? Why do you think this is?
What character traits – both good and bad- do you think Jeannette inherited from her parents? And how do you think those traits shaped Jeannette’s life?
13. For many reviewers and readers, the most extraordinary thing about The Glass Castle is that, despite everything, Jeannette Walls refuses to condemn her parents. Were you able to be equally nonjudgemental?
Overall, how would you characterize the Walls’ parenting style? Were there more good things than bad?
What makes a good parent? Is there any such thing as a normal family?