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
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.
Chapter 1: A Woman on the Street
I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I
looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster. It was just after
dark. A blustery March wind whipped the steam coming out of the manholes, and
people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up. I was stuck in
traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading.
Mom stood fifteen feet away. She had tied rags around her shoulders to keep out the spring chill and was picking through the trash while her dog, a black-and-white terrier mix, played at her feet. Mom's gestures were all familiar -- the way she tilted her head and thrust out her lower lip when studying items of potential value that she'd hoisted out of the Dumpster, the way her eyes widened with childish glee when she found something she liked. Her long hair was streaked with gray, tangled and matted, and her eyes had sunk deep into their sockets, but...
For two decades
Jeannette Walls hid her roots - working primarily as a gossip
columnist at several publications including Esquire and USA
Today, and as a contributor to MSNBC. She even wrote a book about
gossip, Dish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip (1999) -
described by Publishers Weekly as 'provocative and invariably
entertaining, Walls gives dishing the dirt its historical, social and
Then cracks started to appear in her version of her life and she found herself compelled to tell it how it really was. She dedicates her book to her husband John, 'for convincing me that ...
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From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy's turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.
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