The Glass Castle

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Father to Jeannette and her siblings, and the son of Erma and Grandpa Walls. He is primarily referred to as Dad in the narrative. Originally from Welch, West Virginia, Dad left at the age of 17 believing he would never return, but ends up moving back with his family after he fails to stop drinking in Phoenix. Dad is clearly very smart, well-versed in engineering, mathematics, and various scientific theories. When he wants to, he never has trouble finding a job. But he prefers the life of a wanderer, never submitting to someone else’s authority, and staying close to nature where he feels far freer. This makes him alternately a fantastic dad, and an incredibly irresponsible one. Once the family settles in Welch, Dad seems to embrace irresponsibility and spends his days drinking and gambling. However, he continues to want to be self-sufficient, and never accepts charity from others—even his kids.

Rex Walls Quotes in The Glass Castle

The The Glass Castle quotes below are all either spoken by Rex Walls or refer to Rex Walls. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of The Glass Castle published in 2006.
Part 2 Quotes

When Dad wasn’t telling us about all the amazing things he had already done, he was telling us about the wondrous things he was going to do. Like build the Glass Castle. All of Dad’s engineering skills and mathematical genius were coming together in one special project: a great big house he was going to build for us in the desert.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls
Related Symbols: Glass Castle
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

In an extended period of background exposition, Jeannette shares a series of anecdotes about her father's propensity to talk about himself and his various impressive feats. Here Jeannette connects her dad's former triumphs with his dreams for the future, some of which seem just as fanciful and marvelous - but also even more appealing to his children. Rex Walls does like to talk, but the Glass Castle does not seem to Jeannette to be mere empty words: they are fleshed out by the great level of detail that he includes, from the engineering necessities to the architectural blueprints.

The Glass Castle is not just appealing to Jeannette because it will be a beautiful, impressive building for the family to live in. It also foretells a time when the family will be able to stop moving around, when they'll settle into a more stable life together in a place less transient than the various apartments and houses where they have been staying before. Rex Walls also possesses the ability to enchant his children by making them feel like a crucial part of his projects, rather than mere appendages. By involving them in the plans for the Glass Castle, Jeannette's father helps to maintain their illusions about an exciting, fruitful future for the family.

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We laughed about the all the kids who believed in the Santa myth and got nothing for Christmas but a bunch of cheap plastic toys. “Years from now, when all the junk they got is broken and long forgotten,” Dad said, “you’ll still have your stars.

Related Characters: Rex Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Jeannette's parents have little interest in maintaining the illusion that Santa Claus exists. Instead, for Christmas, Dad has taken Jeannette and her siblings outside to the Arizona desert, where he has told them to choose a star for their present. After each one chooses, Dad explains the significance of each star. For Jeannette and her siblings the lack of normal Christmas presents is not disappointing but rather a marker of their family's superiority. They feel special to have been able to have Christmas presents that few other kids have.

At other times, the Walls parents' decisions are frustrating for the kids, but here we have a glimpse of the elements of the family's life that could be truly enchanting for a child. Of course, their parents could not afford the "cheap plastic toys" that other kids receive for Christmas in any case. But Dad in particular possesses the remarkable skill of making scarcity into an adventure, poverty into something magical. By scorning cheap toys and ephemeral possessions, Dad underlines the superiority of the family's questionable choices, but he also embraces a true attitude of wonder towards the natural world, inculcating this sense in the children as well.

[Dad] pointed to the top of the fire, where the snapping yellow flames dissolved into an invisible shimmery heat that made the desert beyond seem to waver, like a mirage. Dad told us that zone was known in physics as the boundary between turbulence and order. “It’s a place where no rules apply, or at least they haven’t figured ’em out yet,” he said.

Related Characters: Rex Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls, Brian Walls
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Once again, Jeannette has had a close call with fire, this time because she and Brian have been playing "lab" in an abandoned shed and have accidentally burned it down. As is often the case for her father, he does not get angry at the danger they put themselves in or at their independence. Looking at the fire seems to awaken in Dad his general fascination for nature and physics, one that is nurtured by his own profound scientific knowledge. For Dad, the mirage that locates the boundary between turbulence and order is intellectually fascinating, appealing in its status as a no-man's-land without rules or regulations. 

Jeannette understands this fascination as going deeper than a mere intellectual interest. For her, Dad is always drawn to the border between order and turbulence in life as well: he is constantly testing this border, trying to see what happens if he acts in one way or another. The problem, of course, is that by definition one cannot know what will happen in this boundary - one cannot apply known rules or theories - so that the family is always teetering on the edge, not entirely without order but never safely within the realm of order either.

Dad kept telling me that he loved me, that he never would have let me drown, but you can’t cling to the side your whole life, that one lesson every parent needs to teach a child is “If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim.”

Related Characters: Rex Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Dad has brought the kids to a natural sulfur spring one winter day. Jeannette, having never learned to swim, is frightened by the water, and as she cautiously wades in Dad suddenly grabs her and throws her in again and again. Gasping and thrashing around in the water, Jeannette is terrified, but finally she manages to keep her head above water. Only then does Dad remind her that she would never be in danger around him, but that caution and worry would never get her far in life. 

Dad's lesson, a literal affair of "sink-or-swim," also applies to his views on parenting and on life affairs in general. By throwing yourself into the most frightening and difficult challenges, he claims, you'll be forced to learn how to act and how to navigate in any situation. Dad believes he is encouraging Jeannette to become self-sufficient, to learn to rely on herself for whatever might come her way. Jeannette, of course, would not have preferred to learn this lesson in such a dramatic fashion. She would probably not agree that Dad's lesson is the best way to learn responsibility. Nonetheless, the experience does at the very least show her that, as she grows up, she may well have to deal with frightening and dangerous situations not too different from her experience of learning to swim.

“I swear, honey, there are times when I think you’re the only one around who still has faith in me,” [Dad] said. “I don’t know what I’d do if you ever lost it.” I told him that I would never lose faith in him. And I promised myself I never would.

Related Characters: Rex Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls
Page Number: 78-79
Explanation and Analysis:

Lori and Brian have begun to turn against Dad, arguing that he spends more money on alcohol than he does on basic necessities for the family. Jeannette cannot bring herself to agree with them, at least out loud. She still loves to spend time with Dad, and feels privileged that he shows her his charts and graphs for his various research projects - projects about which Lori and Brian are increasingly skeptical. Still, Jeannette continues to embrace the chance to develop a special relationship with her father. She is proud to be able to have faith that he'll lead the family to better times, especially since he confides that she is the only one who continues to trust him.

However, it is clear that even Jeannette is beginning to doubt her own confidence. She has to promise herself that she won't lose faith in her father, suggesting that the possibility is at least present. For the moment, however, Jeannette continues to cling to the memory of her father's exciting plans and marvelous ideas, fearing that once she gives up those ideals she will be left only with a bleak reality.

“I wonder what life will be like now,” I said to Lori.
“The same,” she said. “[Dad] tried stopping before, but it never lasted.”
“This time it will.”
“How do you know?”
“It’s his present to me.”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Lori Walls (speaker), Rex Walls
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

Jeannette has asked Dad to give up drinking as his birthday present to her, a request that deeply upsets him, as he realizes that Jeannette must be deeply ashamed of him. Now he has barricaded himself away in a committed attempt to rid himself of his addiction. Lori, however, is far more skeptical than Jeannette about the possibility of Dad truly getting sober. She prefers to judge the chances on the basis of experience: having failed to see a noticeable change in Dad's actions, she doesn't want to get her hopes up about this new commitment. A few years older than Jeannette, Lori has learned to only rely on herself rather than on others so as not to be disappointed again and again.

In some ways, Jeannette has begun to share Lori's skepticism - indeed, she has at least come to terms with the reality of Dad's drinking. But she is convinced that Dad's love for her is such that this time he tries to give up will be different. Jeannette doesn't really see Dad's addiction as a disease, but rather as something under his control, which, if he only wants or tries hard enough, he'll be able to conquer. Part of her illusions thus rests on this innocent view of adult problems.

Part 3 Quotes

“Are we ever going home?” I asked Dad one day.
“Home?”
“Phoenix.”
“This is home now.”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

The family has moved into a sad, run-down home in a downtrodden neighborhood, and although Mom tries to make an adventure out of the small daily challenges of living in such a place, Jeannette can no longer bring herself to acquiesce enthusiastically to these kinds of games. Dad has even suggested that he will return to the Glass Castle blueprints, but Jeannette remains skeptical. She can only understand their current situation as something temporary, rather than a new "home" as Dad calls it.

After years of wandering around from place to place, Jeannette had found that the family's life in Vienna represented real security and stability. Looking back, she now realizes that when she thinks of what "home" means to her, she thinks of Phoenix more than anywhere else. Dad, on the other hand, suggests that wherever the family is now living counts as home. In either case, it does make more sense for him to accept West Virginia as the family's new home, since it is where he himself comes from; but he also seems more than anything resigned to their new situation.

“Who do you think you are?” [Dad] asked. “She’s your mother.”
“Then why doesn’t she act like one?” I looked at Dad for what felt like a very long moment. Then I blurted out, “And why don’t you act like a dad?”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls (speaker), Rose Mary Walls
Page Number: 219-220
Explanation and Analysis:

Mom has refused to go to school on the first day, and after begging and cajoling her, Jeannette finally grows angry and claims that Mom isn't acting like a mother. Mom tells Dad when he gets home, and in this confrontation Jeannette, for the first time, explicitly shares her disillusionment with and anger towards her father for all that he led her to expect, and all that he did to disappoint her. 

In the past, Jeannette has continued to cling to a sense that Dad was well-intentioned, and his disappointing actions redeemable, even if she has long since had to give up the idea that all his wild stories and enchanting illusions had any substance. Now, she goes a step further, suggesting that both her parents' inability to come through for their children are not just signs of their bohemian sensibility, but proof that they don't know how to be good parents. Jeannette has had to take on many of the responsibilities usually embraced by parents, and this outburst reflects the frustration Jeannette feels at this switching of roles.

I stared at the plans. “Dad,” I said, “you’ll never build the Glass Castle.”
“Are you saying you don’t have faith in your old man?”
“Even if you do, I’ll be gone.” […] “As soon as I finish classes, I’m getting on the next bus out of here. If the buses stop running, I’ll hitchhike. I’ll walk if I have to. Go head and build the Glass Castle, but don’t do it for me.”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls
Related Symbols: Glass Castle
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

Jeannette has told her parents that she'll be following Lori to New York, and Dad has grown silent and sullen. Finally, he spreads out the old plans of the Glass Castle. Though he doesn't say anything explicitly to Jeannette, it is suggested that he is making one final attempt to enchant Jeannette into staying, by recalling their old exciting projects and the adoration that Jeannette once held for him. Jeannette is only incredulous at this attempt, which leaves her entirely cold. The Glass Castle, once a cherished idea for her, has come to be no more than a symbol for empty promises and castles built in the air. 

On the one hand, Jeannette officially stakes her position on Dad's inability to ever really go through with these plans and create a beautiful, sustainable home for his family. But in addition, her claims on what she will do to get out of Welch reflect an alternative idea of how to make sure that plans get done and dreams for the future fulfilled. She has committed to going to New York and has made everything possible to do so - something that can only be negatively contrasted with the way Dad makes plans for the future.

I wondered if [Dad] was remembering how he, too, had left Welch full of vinegar at age seventeen and just as convinced as I was now that he’d never return. I wondered if he was hoping that his favorite girl would come back, or if he was hoping that, unlike him, she would make it out for good.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jeannette looks out the window of her bus to New York, some of her anger and frustration at her parents, especially at Dad, begins to dissipate, and instead she begins to ask herself about Dad's own past and the possible parallels between their lives. After having wandered around the country for years, the Walls family had settled back into Dad's hometown, a return that was obviously frustrating and painful for him, as it underlined how little his dreams and ideas for the future resulted in any different kind of life or home for himself.

In some ways, Jeannette's realization about the parallels between Dad's departure and her own is sobering, because it suggests that as much as Jeannette wants to escape Welch for good, there is no guarantee that she will succeed. But she also takes this as a challenge to undertake a different path than that of her father. At the same time, she dares to hope that Dad does want something different for her, even if he made several half-hearted-seeming attempts to keep her home. 

Part 4 Quotes

I actually live on Park Avenue, I kept telling myself as I hung my clothes in the closet Eric had cleared out for me. Then I started thinking about Mom and Dad. When they had moved into their squat—a fifteen-minute subway ride south and about half a dozen worlds away—it seemed as if they had finally found the place where they belonged, and I wondered if I had done the same.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls, Rose Mary Walls
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:

Jeannette has moved in with her boyfriend, Eric, around the same time that her parents have moved into a squat - not physically far away from Park Avenue, but certainly in another world. Jeannette has spent much of the book dreaming about a place she could call home, whether that means the Glass Castle of her childhood, a yellow-painted house, or simply a place of order and stability. Now, though, she has a more serious view of what it means to establish a home and ownership over a place. Jeannette isn't entirely sure that the apartment on Park Avenue is where she really belongs - indeed, she seems to wonder whether her parents haven't done a better job at finding a home that truly fits their sensibilities. She might have succeeded by the standards of society around her, the standards of material success, but Jeannette's search is not yet over.

“Hey,” [Dad] said. He winked and pointed his finger at me “Have I ever let you down?”
He started chuckling because he knew there was only one way I could ever answer that question. I just smiled. And then I closed the door.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

Dad has just shared with Jeannette that he has cancer, after inviting her to the tenement where he lives with Mom: it's been a long time since they've seen each other. This, his parting statement to his daughter depends for its dark humor and irony on the long history of grand illusions and exciting plans that Dad had fed his children for years. Both of them know, of course, that Dad has let her down plenty of times - although at few of those times has Jeannette seemed as calm and controlled as she is now.

Indeed, the fact that Jeannette and her father can laugh about his broken promises, even at a moment of pain like this one, underlines how much Jeannette has been able to gain distance from the acute struggles of her childhood. When she was younger, she was at first enraptured by her father, and then went through a process of deep disillusionment. Now she seems to accept Dad for who he is, as someone who has failed to be a fully responsible father, but who retains a sparkling personality and great charisma, and who is aware of his own failings. Jeannette and Dad have not exactly grown closer as a result of this self-awareness, but she does understand enough to no longer be bitter.

Part 5 Quotes

“We should drink a toast to Rex,” John said.
Mom stared at the ceiling, miming perplexed thought. “I’ve got it.” She held up her glass. “Life with your father was never boring.”

Related Characters: Rose Mary Walls (speaker), John (speaker), Rex Walls
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Jeannette's mother acknowledges something that the entire family knows to be true, and that the reader will by this point recognize as obvious as well. Rose Mary does, of course, put a more positive spin on Dad's mode of parenting and of life in general by calling it "never boring." By doing so she skates over some of the more unpleasant and even dangerous elements of this life, including Dad's drinking and his irresponsibility with money. Of course, Rose Mary Walls was not exempt from some of these examples of irresponsibility either, and in any case, the toast is a chance to celebrate and remember Dad's life. In addition, of course, emphasizing the excitement that Dad brought to everything allows the family to remember what was so appealing about his attitude towards life.

A wind picked up, rattling the windows, and the candle flames suddenly shifted, dancing along the border between turbulence and order.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rex Walls
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 288
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jeannette ends her chronicle of her childhood and emergence from the wild uncertainties of her youth, she returns to the symbols that structured her childhood. Even the smallest of events like the flickering of candle flames can be a reminder of both a specific moment from her youth and a broader means of coming to terms with her relationship to her family and to her past. Dad had once told Jeannette all about the physical boundary between order and turbulence according to physics, an idea that fascinated him. The anecdote thus reminds Jeannette of the way in which her father often encouraged her to learn and to be curious about the world around her.

But also, of course, this boundary is one that, in a more metaphorical sense, Jeannette and her family were always skirting over the course of her childhood. Having grown up and lost many of her childhood illusions, especially about her father, Jeannette still is eager to remember much of what Dad taught her, and to remain attached in some way to her past.

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Rex Walls Character Timeline in The Glass Castle

The timeline below shows where the character Rex Walls appears in The Glass Castle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: The Desert
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...next door, and asks to borrow her neighbor’s car to get to the hospital, since Dad has gone somewhere with theirs. (full context)
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Jeannette’s family—Mom, Dad, Brian, and Jeannette’s older sister Lori— comes to visit, loudly interrupting the hospital’s calm. Mom... (full context)
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On the family’s next visit to see Jeanette in the hospital, Dad tells Jeannette a story she knows well, about when Lori was stung by a scorpion.... (full context)
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...wrapped in a bandage from falling off the couch and hitting his head. Mom and Dad decided not to take him to the hospital—one kid was enough. Dad begins to argue... (full context)
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Several days later, Dad arrives and tells Jeannette to trust him: they are going to “check out, Rex Walls-style.”... (full context)
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...her finger through a candle flame, watching her neighbors burn trash, and stealing matches from Dad to light behind the family’s trailer—she enjoys waiting just until the fire seems about to... (full context)
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A few months after this event, Dad arrives home in the middle of the night and announces that the family is leaving... (full context)
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...(christened the Blue Goose), the family’s cat Quixote begins to protest by growling and scratching. Dad, who says the family adventure isn’t open to anyone who doesn’t like to travel, and... (full context)
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According to Jeannette, Dad is sure FBI agents are after him, though Mom says that the FBI just sounds... (full context)
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...that the family has moved around between Nevada, Arizona, and California—the more remote the better—and Dad has a knack for getting any kind of job, like an electrician or mining engineer.... (full context)
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...Grandma Smith, the stay never lasts long until her grandmother gets into an argument with Dad about his inability to hold down a job, and the family must pack up again. (full context)
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...as well as how to find water and survive on plants in the desert, while Dad teaches them math, Morse code, and pistol shooting. (full context)
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...sandstorms when they can’t find anywhere to hide from them. Unlike other parents, Mom and Dad allow them to splash and dance outside in the thunderstorms, watching the lightning bolts as... (full context)
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Dad confides that his true ambition is to find gold to support his family—this is the... (full context)
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Jeannette acknowledges that while Dad is “perfect,” things can turn frightening once he embarks on a drinking episode. But he... (full context)
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Dad’s bedtime stories are always about his own adventures. A marvelous storyteller, he keeps the kids... (full context)
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Dad also returns again and again to the story of what he plans to do once... (full context)
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Though the one thing Dad doesn’t enjoy talking about is his past as a youth in Welch, West Virginia, he... (full context)
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Jeannette tells us that Dad left the Air Force because he wanted to strike gold; then Lori was born and... (full context)
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On the way to Las Vegas, where Dad has decided to move to make some money gambling, Mom and Dad stop at the... (full context)
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When Mom and Dad finally come back, Dad continues to drive while drinking beer in the other hand. At... (full context)
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...the family stays for a month, the kids play in the casinos while Mom and Dad are playing blackjack. Dad makes lots of money and the kids get new clothes and... (full context)
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...head to San Francisco, where they stay in a hotel off the beaten path that Dad calls a “flophouse,” but which Mom says has “character.” (full context)
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...later, Jeannette wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of fire. Dad rushes into the children’s bedroom and carries them outside before helping to fight the fire.... (full context)
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...it is illegal to sleep there. Jeannette thinks that the policeman is nice enough, but Dad calls him the “gestapo” and says that it’s far better for the family to move... (full context)
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...an ancient Joshua tree in a spot between the desert and the mountain and asks Dad to pull over. The tree has grown in the direction of the wind, leaning forward... (full context)
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Leaving her and the kids, Dad continues driving to explore the area and comes across a town called Midland, made up... (full context)
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...the desert, and one night becomes sure that there is a monster under her bed. Dad tells Jeannette (though he calls her “Mountain Goat,” because when they climb mountains together she... (full context)
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Since Dad threw the cat Quixote out the window, the family has collected a number of others.... (full context)
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While Dad has secured a job digging out gypsum at the town’s mine, Mom works on paintings,... (full context)
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Jeannette recounts how she never believed in Santa Claus, since Mom and Dad couldn’t afford presents; instead they told the kids about the other parents’ deception. (full context)
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Before this year’s Christmas, in Midland, Dad is fired from the gypsum mine after arguing with the foreman. (full context)
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...Eve, he takes each kid out into the desert to look at the stars—one of Dad’s favorite scientific topics. Wealthy apartment owners in cities, he says, miss out because of how... (full context)
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Dad tells Jeannette to choose a star for her Christmas present. She picks the one shining... (full context)
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That night, Dad explains the significance of the stars each kid has chosen: Betelgeuse, a soon-to-be supernova, Rigel,... (full context)
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...Blythe, California, where Mom, who is pregnant, can give birth. On the way, Mom and Dad start arguing about how many months Mom has been pregnant for—she claims that she has... (full context)
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By the time they get to Blythe, Mom and Dad have made up. They find a place to rent in the “LBJ Apartments” with mostly... (full context)
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...Mexican girls follow Jeannette home and beat her up. When she gets home, she tells Dad that there were six of them and she fought back hard. (full context)
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A few months after the birth, police try to pull over Dad as he is driving the family because the brake lights of the car aren’t working.... (full context)
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The next day Dad decides it’s time to leave Blythe, this time for a Nevada town called Battle Mountain... (full context)
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...kids have to cling onto the furniture, until a car behind starts honking enough for Dad to pay attention and stop to lock the doors. (full context)
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Mom decides to buy a piano for the house, for which Dad creates a pulley system to bring into the house with a pickup. But Mom panics... (full context)
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If there’s enough money, the family goes to the Owl Club on Sundays. Dad dismisses its slot machines as being for “suckers”—he prefers poker and pool. Everyone at the... (full context)
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Instead of drinking, Dad stays home with the family, and after dinner everyone reads together with a dictionary nearby... (full context)
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While Mom reads literature like Dickens and Faulkner, Dad reads science and math books and biographies. (full context)
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...grade with a teacher named Miss Page, but already knows most of what is taught. Dad makes her do her math homework in binary numbers as a challenge. One day she... (full context)
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...sometimes has rock sales but charges six hundred dollars per rock; her only customer is Dad, and she lets him have the rock on credit. (full context)
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...drop matches into these instruments and the shed catches on fire. Jeannette escapes and finds Dad, who pulls out Brian. (full context)
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Afterward, Dad seems not mad but contemplative. He points to the fire and shows Brian and Jeannette... (full context)
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That winter, Dad brings the family to the “Hot Pot,” a natural sulfur spring. Jeannette is unused to... (full context)
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One day, Jeannette arrives home from exploring to learn from Lori that Dad has lost his job. Dad, though, claims he just wants to devote his time to... (full context)
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The family now has less money for food, though sometimes Dad comes home with money from odd jobs, or returns with vegetables in his arms. Soon,... (full context)
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...yells at Jeannette not to blame her. That night, she gets into a fight with Dad, accusing him of spending all his time at the Owl Club. Dad suggests Grandma Smith... (full context)
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Suddenly, Mom appears from the second-floor window, upside down and held by the ankles by Dad. The crowd starts to laugh, and the Walls children, who feel ashamed, run up and... (full context)
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...family now has food at home, at least until the end of the month. But Dad demands that Mom turn the money over to him, and she can’t seem to say... (full context)
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Another day, Dad asks Brian and Jeannette why they’re not carrying lunch bags to school. When they say... (full context)
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Lori and Brian agree that Dad spends more money on alcohol than on family necessities, but Jeannette defends his research on... (full context)
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...the meaning. She knows only that it means nothing good, and doesn’t want to ask Dad. (full context)
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Lori, as the oldest, runs upstairs and comes down with Dad’s real pistol. Billy goads her into shooting, and she pulls the trigger in his general... (full context)
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It isn’t long before a police car with Mom and Dad inside parks outside the house. Dad asks them what’s happened, and Jeannette says they acted... (full context)
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Mom and Dad spend the rest of the day whispering together upstairs. That night, they come down to... (full context)
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Jeannette runs to get her rock collection, since Dad has told the kids they can only bring one thing each. Lori counters that the... (full context)
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Dad gets a job as an electrician and, as part of a union, makes good, steady... (full context)
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...owned—using the electric washing machine, and playing with Grandma Smith’s old record player. Mom and Dad dance to old albums, from gospel music to opera. (full context)
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...attacks the roaches in the kitchen. Termites also start to chew through the wood, which Dad fixes by hammering his beer cans shut and nailing them over each hole. (full context)
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...runs into the room with a hatchet, and the man escapes. Mom is asleep and Dad not home, and though Brian and Jeannette follow for a few blocks, they never find... (full context)
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When Dad returns, he swears he’ll kill the intruder, but fails to find him. In any case,... (full context)
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Refusing to capitulate is a common theme for Mom and Dad, who encourage the kids never to conform. Once, Mom accompanies them to the Phoenix library... (full context)
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Dad, on the other hand, believes in “science and reason” rather than God. When he comes... (full context)
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Dad soon grows restless in Phoenix, with its trappings of urban life like tax forms, meetings,... (full context)
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...hears on the radio that a woman shot a mountain lion outside her house. Fuming, Dad drives the kids to the city zoo. They make their way to the cheetah’s cage... (full context)
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Not long after, Dad gets fired from his electrician’s job, and then another and another, until he is left... (full context)
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Dad, for his part, raises funds by depositing money in a bank account and, a week... (full context)
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Dad claims that the electricians’ union in Phoenix is corrupt, run by the mob. This is... (full context)
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Mom doesn’t buy into Dad’s story, and after seeing him come home repeatedly drunk, angry, and breaking things, Jeannette begins... (full context)
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Dad has stocked up on liquor in advance and by the time they leave for midnight... (full context)
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Back home, Mom gives Dad his present—a lighter—and he hurls it, lit, into the Christmas tree. Only after the tree... (full context)
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When Jeannette turns ten that spring, Dad asks what she wants most in the world—surprising her, since the family usually doesn’t do... (full context)
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Dad looks wounded, and says that Jeannette must be ashamed of him. She assures him she’s... (full context)
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After a week, Dad lets the kids see him, though he’s pale and thin with shaking hands, and he’s... (full context)
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By the fall, Dad decides to celebrate having recuperated from his alcoholism, and takes the family camping to the... (full context)
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Though Jeannette is confident he can fix the car, Dad says he doesn’t have the right tools. He tells the family that they’ll have to... (full context)
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Three days later, Dad returns stumbling and yelling, and starts throwing silverware across the room screaming for Mom. She... (full context)
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Mom starts to mention moving to West Virginia where Dad’s parents, who could help him out, live. She makes it sound like an adventure, though... (full context)
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Dad still is refusing to come as the rest of the family packs up the car.... (full context)
Part 3: Welch
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...and kisses the kids over and over again. Jeannette wonders if this is one of Dad’s pranks, and the real family is somewhere else, but Dad isn’t smiling and looks uncomfortable. (full context)
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...speaking in tongues, and then a preacher speaking in a “hillbilly” accent asking for donations. Dad claims this is what turned him into an atheist. (full context)
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Mom and Dad take the kids for a tour and tell them about Welch’s history. Unfit for agriculture,... (full context)
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There’s a river named the Tug, but Dad says that they can’t go fishing or swimming, since the Tug serves as the catch-all... (full context)
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...a grand courthouse and a bank with arched windows, but by this point it’s run-down. Dad says it’s been this way since the fifties, when JFK came to Welch to hand... (full context)
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...agrees that things have grown shabbier since she was last in Welch after she and Dad were first married, but cheers up when she realizes there probably aren’t any other artists... (full context)
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At home, Jeannette deflects Mom and Dad’s questions about school rather than face Mom’s optimistic responses to whatever she tells them. Dinitia... (full context)
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That winter, Mom and Dad decide to drive back to Phoenix to pick up the bikes, school records, and other... (full context)
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Jeannette envies Mom and Dad for returning to Phoenix, where she remembers riding her bike, eating free bananas, and studying... (full context)
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Brian and Jeannette wonder aloud if Mom and Dad will return. The kids know that they are more inconvenient to their parents now that... (full context)
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The night Mom and Dad come back, the kids hear the door open upstairs and Erma begin to complain about... (full context)
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Afterwards, Jeannette and her siblings wonder why Dad was acting so strange. Jeannette asks aloud if Erma might ever have acted towards Dad... (full context)
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Mom and Dad tell the kids that they arrived in Phoenix to find the house looted, with everything... (full context)
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...stay with her. The family can’t afford a rental in Welch proper, but Mom and Dad find a place over one of the mountains and up a one-lane road called Little... (full context)
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Dad, for his part, says that this is just a temporary solution, providing a plot of... (full context)
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One day Jeannette asks Dad if they are ever going home—when he asks “Home?” she responds, “Phoenix.” Dad replies that... (full context)
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One day, Dad tells Jeannette and Brian to dump the house’s garbage in the pit, since they haven’t... (full context)
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...tries to think up ways to improve the house, like painting it yellow with paint Dad brought home from an odd job. (full context)
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Jeannette’s family is the poorest on Little Hobart Street, but Mom and Dad never accept welfare, food stamps, or church drive clothes, saying they can take care of... (full context)
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Mom and Dad always tell the kids they don’t have it as bad as some—for instance the Pastors,... (full context)
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One night Dad comes home with deep, bloody cuts on his head and arm. Mom is asleep and... (full context)
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Though Dad can usually get odd jobs, he prefers to search for a way to hit a... (full context)
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...and calling herself a sugar addict, and says they should forgive her like they forgive Dad for his addiction. Without saying anything, Brian breaks the bar into four pieces and the... (full context)
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...becomes difficult to find dry wood. One day Lori uses kerosene as an aid (against Dad’s wishes, since he says it’s dangerous and unnatural) and it explodes, singeing her thighs so... (full context)
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...prepared for her funeral and leaves detailed, intricate instructions. Jeannette is surprised at how upset Dad seems—she’d assumed he’d feel relieved. (full context)
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...say about Erma, Lori responds, “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.” The others start laughing, but Dad looks furious and yells at the kids, saying that he is ashamed of them. (full context)
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Four days later Mom sends Jeannette to find Dad, who still hasn’t come home. She moves from bar to bar and finally finds him... (full context)
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Dad orders Jeannette Cokes as he continues drinking whiskey, until he is stumbling so much that... (full context)
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...it turns out to be valuable, Mom decides to keep it to replace the one Dad had given her and then pawned. When Jeanette says that the ring could buy a... (full context)
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...of one cheerful moment to broach a grand plan to Mom: that Mom should leave Dad in order to be eligible for welfare. Mom is shocked that Jeannette, Dad’s last defender,... (full context)
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That summer, Dad still thinks of Jeannette as his biggest fan. One afternoon as they’re sitting on the... (full context)
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...knocks on the door to Jeannette’s house saying he’s from child welfare, and asking for Rex or Rose Mary Walls. He says he’s received a call about possible neglect at the... (full context)
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Though Jeannette had initially assumed Welch was one more, brief stop, Mom and Dad seem to have lost their desire to move around. They talk vaguely about Australia and... (full context)
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...entire head, and eventually holding them in place with a metal coat hanger. One night Dad comes in and surprises her as she is wearing her contraption. He marvels at her... (full context)
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...without having to pay for uniforms or equipment. Miss Jeanette Bivens, the organizer, was also Dad’s beloved English teacher who, he says, was the first person to believe in him. He... (full context)
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Lori, though, feels sorry for Mom for being married to Dad. When Jeannette says that Mom needs to be stronger, Lori says that not even a... (full context)
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...so Mom leaves Jeannette with two hundred dollars, giving her an opportunity to prove that Dad just needs a strong woman to manage him. (full context)
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The next week, Dad comes home one afternoon and asks for money for beer and cigarettes—five dollars, or two... (full context)
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Dad asks for five dollars again a few days afterward, and then twenty, claiming he needs... (full context)
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That weekend, Dad tells Jeannette to accompany him on a business trip to pay back that money. He... (full context)
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Though Jeannette expects Dad will be furious once he realizes what’s happening, he seems nonchalant and simply yells over... (full context)
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...Roy Acuff record and dance. Jeannette is worried about his intentions, but when Robbie asks Dad he says, “Sure,” and at Jeannette, “Holler if you need me.” (full context)
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...dances with Jeannette but then starts groping and kissing her. Jeannette is too mad at Dad to want to scream for him to rescue her. Robbie mentions how bony she is... (full context)
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Afterward, Dad gives Jeannette forty of the dollars he’s won, and though Jeannette is seething, she accepts... (full context)
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A few days later, Dad asks Jeannette to come with him to another bar, and when she refuses, he demands... (full context)
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Jeannette finally realizes that standing up to Dad is more difficult than she’d thought. She applies for a part-time job at a store... (full context)
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Mom tells Dad when he returns home that Jeannette back-talked her, and Dad admonishes her for not respecting... (full context)
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...that winter, Jeannette arrives home to find a Cadillac Coupe DeVille outside their house, which Dad has won at a poker game. Jeannette knows Dad should sell the car to pay... (full context)
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Dad thinks Shakespeare is a fraud, since no one person could have had his vocabulary, and... (full context)
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Dad sulks since the entire family is upset with him, and wonders aloud why Lori would... (full context)
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Dad doesn’t come home for three days, and when he does he seems nonchalant despite Lori’s... (full context)
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The day Lori leaves, she refuses to say a word to Dad, but hugs the rest of the family and leaves without looking back. Dad says that... (full context)
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That year, Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier and one of Dad’s heroes, comes to give a speech at Welch High. Dad is thrilled and helps Jeannette... (full context)
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...During the interview she mentions the airplanes he’s flown in that she learned about from Dad, and Yeager calls her an expert. For a brief moment, the other kids at school... (full context)
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When Jeannette tells her parents her plan, Dad walks out without saying anything. Mom encourages her to go to New York, but seems... (full context)
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...her apartment, and Brian starts counting down the months, as Jeannette had done with Lori. Dad, on the other hand, barely speaks to Jeannette anymore. (full context)
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Jeannette tells Dad that he’ll never build the Glass Castle, and that even if he does she’ll be... (full context)
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Dad suggests that Jeannette can stay in Welch and get a job at The Welch Daily... (full context)
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...so Mom, who likes to sleep in, doesn’t wake up to see her off. But Dad is there to carry her suitcase, and gives her his favorite jackknife before she departs.... (full context)
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As Jeannette looks out the window at Dad, she wonders if he had left Welch at 17 thinking he’d never come back either. (full context)
Part 4: New York City
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...will see is a tall, awkward, Appalachian hick. She hopes that they’ll see instead what Dad calls her “inner beauty.” (full context)
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Brian writes to Jeannette telling her about the family: Dad’s drunk or in jail, Mom’s in her own world, and Maureen has essentially moved in... (full context)
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Sometimes Mom and Dad call from Welch, usually with new problems to report. When Lori hears that Maureen has... (full context)
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...the highway. That night she gets a phone call from Mom saying that she and Dad have moved to New York. Just as Jeannette thought, the van was theirs. (full context)
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The next day, Mom and Dad meet all four of their children at Lori’s apartment. When Jeannette, who still feels a... (full context)
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Mom and Dad live for a while in a boardinghouse until they fall behind on the rent, at... (full context)
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...months the entire place is jammed with Mom’s paintings, street finds, and colored glasses. Meanwhile Dad is coming home more and more often drunk and angry. (full context)
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Brian invites Dad into his apartment and locks the alcohol cabinet, but comes home one day to find... (full context)
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...out and she moves into the van as well. After a few months, Mom and Dad leave it in a no-parking zone and it’s towed. They can’t retrieve the car because... (full context)
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Towards the winter, the Mom and Dad spend more and more time in the libraries, where Mom is reading Balzac and Dad... (full context)
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Jeannette is torn, wanting both to help Mom and Dad and to abandon them. She often finds herself giving homeless people spare change, wondering if... (full context)
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Mom and Dad hate shelters, so on winter nights they either sleep in church pews or, when the... (full context)
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...Lori, though, advises her to stay, since dropping out would be counterproductive and would devastate Dad. (full context)
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That spring Dad comes down with tuberculosis and is hospitalized. When Jeannette comes to visit him he introduces... (full context)
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After six weeks in the hospital, Dad doesn’t want to go back to the streets since he knows he’ll start drinking again.... (full context)
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Dad seems to be doing well, and enjoys living near the country, but Mom keeps calling... (full context)
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...become a policeman. The entire family celebrates Christmas that year at Lori’s apartment. Mom and Dad give the kids battered street finds, while Jeannette gives Dad warm winter clothes. He says... (full context)
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That August, Dad, who has been following along her class syllabi by checking the books out from the... (full context)
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That fall, Mom and Dad find an abandoned building to move into on the Lower East Side. They’ll be squatters—or... (full context)
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...the ceiling, and a hinge-less door. But their apartment fits all Mom’s scattered possessions, and Dad has hot-wired the building to a utility cable down the block. (full context)
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...Welch and just wants to run away, but she also realizes how proud Mom and Dad are of their new home. They tell her about their fellow squatters fighting against the... (full context)
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Mom and Jeannette’s siblings can’t make it to her graduation that spring. Jeannette wants Dad to attend, but tells him she can’t risk him showing up drunk and combative. (full context)
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...him. Eric owns a small company; he is painstaking and organized, responsible, and calm. When Dad asks about him, she tells him that Eric treats her fine. She thinks to herself... (full context)
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Dad refuses to come visit Jeannette, saying he’d feel out of place, but Mom does come... (full context)
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Jeannette then tells her mother that she wants to help her and Dad, either with a car or rent or a down payment on a place they could... (full context)
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...that Maureen just needs “fresh air and sunshine.” Maureen ends up living with Mom and Dad in the abandoned tenement. (full context)
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...family gets into a massive fight about who is responsible for Maureen’s situation: Lori blames Dad for a toxic childhood environment, whereas Mom blames junk food and Dad says that Maureen... (full context)
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Jeannette hardly sees Mom and Dad for a year or so, until she gets a phone call from Dad inviting her... (full context)
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Dad tells Jeannette that he got into a fight with Nigerian drug dealers, which has given... (full context)
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Jeannette knows how much chaos Dad has created for her, but also cannot imagine life without him, and acknowledges his unique... (full context)
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On her way out, Dad asks if he’s ever let her down. He immediately starts laughing, and Jeannette smiles too. (full context)
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Two weeks later, Dad has a heart attack. Before they let him off life support, Jeannette visits the hospital... (full context)
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In the weeks following Dad’s death, Jeannette finds herself restless and uncomfortable, always wanting to be somewhere else or, especially,... (full context)
Part 5: Thanksgiving
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Five years after Dad dies, Jeannette awaits Mom and Lori at the train station near the country farmhouse that... (full context)
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The family, following John’s suggestion, drinks a toast to Dad: “Life with your father was never boring,” Mom says. (full context)