This is a stunning book. Walls’s portrayal of her family and upbringing are heartbreaking and yet, incredibly humanizing. She truly shows herself to be a resilient and forgiving person in this memoir.
The story begins with Walls’s meeting her mother for dinner, where it is revealed that Walls’s mother is homeless, and that Walls is embarrassed by her. It then jumps to her earliest memory, of her dress catching on fire while she was roasting a marshmallow outside. She was three years old at this time and living in a trailer with her family. It’s amazing that Walls chooses these two stories to open up her memoir with; it clearly shows the reader where she was and where she is, making the reader more curious about her family’s journey.
Walls grew up living a nomadic lifestyle. Her parents had sporadic employment, problems with substance abuse and gambling, as well as poor spending habits, and yet Walls’s and her siblings grew up in a very intellectually stimulating environment. Her mother loved to read, write and paint, often having her children edit her works; Her father loved physics and was an incredibly intelligent man who wanted to teach his kids to be able to both think and fend for themselves. Their lives seem like adventures at the beginning, with everyone in the family having a happy-go-lucky attitude to whatever life throws at them, and it almost seems like Walls tries to get us in the mindset of her at this age, as the reader too, looks at their lifestyle in awe and fascination. But the curtains are quickly pulled on both the reader and Walls. She starts to notice that maybe her father is more talk then action, that their mother cares more about her self-esteem then her children and that their life isn’t an adventure. We all come to realize that we can’t hide from the ugly truth, and the happy adventure is nothing more then blissful ignorance.
Walls shows the reader not only a glimpse behind her upbringing, but also her feelings with her family members. It’s important to note that Walls only speaks of her opinions when it came to her opinions of others. She rarely complained about her living conditions and simply states what happened. She also forgives her parents and continue to try to look out for them when she pursues a different lifestyle. It’s such a humble and extraordinary tale and it’s relatively short. If you haven’t already, you should definitely pick this one up.
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