Book Club: The Glass Castle and Bonfire

I’m SO behind when it comes to my book reviews so today, I’d like to do a double feature. I’m going to review two books: The Glass Castle and Bonfire. I hope you enjoy my reviews!


The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I am friends with one of my high school English teachers on Facebook and one day I saw that she read The Glass Castle and enjoyed it so I thought I’d give it a try.

Goodreads synopsis

A tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that, despite its profound flaws, gave the author the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. 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 fifteen 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.

My review

There’s dysfunctional families, and then there’s the Walls family.

To be honest, I didn’t actually know much about Jeannette Walls before I read this book or heard about the movie adaptation of it (starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, and Naomi Watts). I knew Walls was a writer for a magazine and that’s about it. I had no idea that she had such an itinerant lifestyle growing up and parents who were both incredibly loving and extremely narcissistic.

The glass castle that the title of the book refers to is plans Rex Walls (Jeannette’s father) has to build their ideal home. As a child, Jeannette tells of the time Rex showed her blueprints for a big beautiful home that he would someday build for the family promising it’d be built one day, asking, “Have I ever let you down?” As a child, Rex never could let Jeannette down. He was her hero, the smart engineer who questioned all authority and taught his children to do the same. Her mother was a beautiful, free-spirited artist that Jeannette both admired and adored. As Jeannette gets older, the veil falls and though her love for her parents stays the same, she begins to see them for who they really are - selfish and neglectful. The glass castle goes from representing future hopes and dreams to representing broken promises.

While this book is a memoir and therefore a true story, the way Walls writes makes it seem almost like a fairytale and I enjoyed the experience of reading The Glass Castle. As much as I loved the book and completely understood Jeannette’s love for her parents, I couldn’t help but be disgusted by their selfishness, their narcissism, and neglect of their children. The book starts with Jeannette being hospitalized at age three because her mother let her use the stove by herself, unsupervised, where (unsurprisingly) she burns herself. That pretty much sets the tone for the rest of her relationship with her parents.


Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

I’m a fan of Krysten Ritter, the actress. I was obsessed with Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix. She’s just such a badass! I had heard great reviews of her new fiction book that she wrote (also her first book). I promptly downloaded it and got hooked from the beginning.

Goodreads synopsis

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

My Review

I don’t know what I was expecting with this book but it certainly wasn’t what I read. I was hooked from beginning to end!

Ritter’s debut novel is a psychological thriller and mystery which is one of my favorite genres in fiction. I like the suspense and the dark tone. Even though I know Abby isn’t Jessica Jones, I got a very similar vibe from her (so fans of the show may be pleased to know that the book will give you a similar feeling).

After graduating high school, Abby is happy to get away from the gang of girls who bullied her and made her a victim of “The Game.” She moves from her hometown of Barrens, Indiana to Chicago and becomes a successful environmental lawyer. A case takes her back to her hometown where she must confront her past and the mysterious disappearance of her former-best-friend-turned-bully, Kaycee.

If you like thrillers and suspenseful novels, this is a must-read.

DeborahBook, Reading, Review