We had our second book club meeting last Saturday, and our February reading assignment was The Glass Castle.  This collection of the author’s memoirs tells of a life that was marked by poverty and parental neglect.  Heart-breaking, painful, and infuriating when parents refuse to play the role of parents.  Makes me appreciate my relatively normal childhood.  Stability was always something I took for granted – I never thought to be thankful for the fact that my dad never lit the Christmas tree on fire, my mom never relied on me to get her out of bed and to work in the morning, and I never had to fret over where or when I would find my next meal. Passages like this one made me cringe:

“Once, when an extra-big royalty check came in, Mom bought us a whole canned ham.  We ate off it for days, cutting thick slices for sandwiches.  Since we had no refrigerator, we left the ham on a kitchen shelf.  After it had been there for about a week, I went to saw myself a slab at dinnertime and found it crawling with little white worms.  Mom was sitting on the sofa bed, eating the piece she’d cut.  ‘Mom, that ham’s full of maggots,’ I said.  ‘Don’t be so picky,’ she told me.  ‘Just slice off the maggoty parts.  The inside’s fine.’ ”

But hope is found in the fact that despite the struggle of living in poverty with an alcoholic father and a self-absorbed mother, the author and her siblings band together to overcome the tragedy of their circumstances.  Walls’ life seems to be a true tribute to resilience and self-empowerment.