While last week’s memoirs were a bit more light-hearted, this week we’re taking a more serious turn. A memoir can open you up to a new and horrible side of humanity, but this can be enlightening. Although some of these novels are incredibly heartbreaking, they’re valuable and intriguing reads.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls “The Glass Castle” is Jeannette Walls’ dad’s promise to her — that he will build her a glass castle for them to live in as a family, where nothing bad can happen to them. The novel begins when Walls is three years old, and it spans to her adulthood. The family’s nomadic existence and their “skedaddle,” what the Walls family does when they have something to avoid, makes Jeannette’s story equally tragic and humorous.
Jeannette’s childhood is rough, from her being severely burned as a child to being molested by an uncle and a neighbor. “The Glass Castle” is about Jeannette’s strength, and the multilayered way family can be both have good intentions and be completely horrible. This book is a great read for all walks of life, as it introduces the struggles of poverty and abuse from Jeannette’s fascinating perspective as a New York City journalist.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah “A Long Way Gone” is a sad and touching novel about Ishmael Beah’s time as a soldier during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 1990s. After rebels conquered his village, he was forced to leave behind his family at age 12. By age 13, he was recruited by the Sierra Leonean army and became a drug-addicted boy soldier who not only saw violence, but committed acts of violence as well. The novel is heartbreaking, but his story is a must-read due to its truth. Beah is relentless and does not spare any horrific details. His harsh honesty makes the book that much more poignant. Too often, we turn away from things that are hard to look at, but this memoir is tough in a way that makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens next in Beah’s story.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert I really love Elizabeth Gilbert. Her 2014 TED Talk titled “Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating” should be an anthem for all people, creative or not, and “Eat Pray Love” is equally inspirational. In the memoir, Gilbert journeys through Italy, India and Bali trying to find what she wants from life. Critics often argue that Gilbert’s novel is too self-absorbed, but the memoir stems from her self-journey, so it makes sense that she would generally speak a lot about herself. Gilbert partakes in what makes her happy, and she tries to find fulfillment after her divorce. Gilbert’s easy and conversational style emphasizes her changing perspective, making it a great book for a book club because it allows for discussion. Gilbert’s memoir resonates with anyone who is lost in their life, and it can be incredibly moving.