The Glass Castle

Jeannette Walls Character Analysis

Daughter of Rex and Rose Mary Walls, and the second oldest of four siblings in the Walls family. Jeannette is practical, rational, and thoughtful. Unlike Mom, she enjoys adhering to rules—though she is always up for an adventure as well. Unlike Dad, when she commits to doing something, she follows through. Along with her older sister, Lori, Jeannette often takes on the role of parent when her own parents act more like children. But for much of the memoir, Jeanette adores and idealizes her father, and struggles to reconcile this idealized image with Dad’s reckless choices and mistakes. Ultimately she comes to the conclusion that she must escape her family and she moves to New York. She never entirely condemns her parents, but as an adult her relationship with them remains deeply ambivalent.

Jeannette Walls Quotes in The Glass Castle

The The Glass Castle quotes below are all either spoken by Jeannette Walls or refer to Jeannette 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of The Glass Castle published in 2006.
Part 1 Quotes

“You want to help me change my life?” Mom asked. “I’m fine. You’re the one who needs help. Your values are all confused.”

Related Characters: Rose Mary Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2 Quotes

That was the thing about the hospital. You never had to worry about running out of stuff like food or ice or even chewing gum. I would have been happy staying in that hospital forever.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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I wondered if the fire had been out to get me. I wondered if all fire was related, like Dad said all humans were related, if the fire that burned me that day while I cooked hot dogs was somehow connected to the fire I had flushed down the toilet and the fire burning at the hotel. I didn’t have the answers to those questions, but what I did know was that I lived in a world that at any moment could erupt into fire. It was the sort of knowledge that kept you on your toes.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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Mom frowned at me. “You’d be destroying what makes it special,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”

Related Characters: Rose Mary Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls
Related Symbols: The Joshua Tree
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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[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:

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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:

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“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:

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“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:

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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:

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Instead of a freshly painted yellow house, or even a dingy gray one, we now had a weird-looking half-finished patch job—one that announced to the world that the people inside the house wanted to fix it up but lacked the gumption to get the work done.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

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She was keeping [the wedding ring], she explained, to replace the wedding ring her mother had given her, the one Dad had pawned shortly after they got married.
“But Mom,” I said, “that ring could get us a lot of food.”
“That’s true,” Mom said, “but it could also improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food.”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rose Mary Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

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A newspaper reporter, instead of holing up in isolation, was in touch with the rest of the world. What the reporter wrote influenced what people thought about and talked about the next day; he knew what was really going on. I decided I wanted to be one of the people who knew what was really going on.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

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Because we never subscribed to newspapers or magazines, I’d never known what was going on in the world, except for the skewed version of events we got from Mom and Dad—one in which every politician was a crook, every cop was a thug, and every criminal had been framed. I began to feel like I was getting the whole story for the first time, that I was being handed the missing pieces to the puzzle, and the world was making a little more sense.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 204-205
Explanation and Analysis:

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I had always wanted a watch. Unlike diamonds, watches were practical. They were for people on the run, people with appointments to keep and schedules to meet. That was the kind of person I wanted to be.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Why do I always have to be the one who earns the money?” Mom asked. “You have a job. You can earn money. Lori can earn money, too. I’ve got more important things to do.”

Related Characters: Rose Mary Walls (speaker), Jeannette Walls, Lori Walls
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

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“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:

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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:

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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:

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Part 4 Quotes

“You can’t just live like this,” I said.
“Why not?” Mom said. “Being homeless is an adventure.”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Rose Mary Walls
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

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“I think that maybe sometimes people get the lives they want.”
“Are you saying homeless people want to live on the street?” Professor Fuchs asked. “Are you saying they don’t want warm beds and roofs over their heads?”
“Not exactly, I said. I was fumbling for words. “They do. But if some of them were willing to work hard and make compromises, they might not have ideal lives, but they could make ends meet.”
Professor Fuchs walked around from behind her lectern. “What do you know about the lives of the underprivileged?” she asked. She was practically trembling with agitation. “What do you know about the hardships and obstacles that the underclass faces?”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Professor Fuchs
Page Number: 256-257
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I also hoped that Maureen had chosen California because she thought that was her true home, the place where she really belonged, where it was always warm and you could dance in the rain, pick grapes right off the vines, and sleep outside at night under the stars.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Maureen Walls
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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“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:

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A year after Dad died, I left Eric. He was a good man, but not the right one for me. And Park Avenue was not where I belonged.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:

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I liked to go for long walks at night. I often walked west toward the river. The city lights obscured the stars, but on clear nights, I could see Venus on the horizon, up over the dark water, glowing steadily.

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker)
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Part 5 Quotes

“Grandma Walls is different from your other grandma,” I told [Veronica].
“Way different,” Veronica said.
John’s daughter, Jessica, turned to me and said, “But she laughs just like you do.”

Related Characters: Jeannette Walls (speaker), Jessica (speaker), Veronica (speaker), Rose Mary Walls
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Get the entire The Glass Castle LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Jeannette Walls Character Timeline in The Glass Castle

The timeline below shows where the character Jeannette Walls appears in The Glass Castle. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: A Woman on the Street
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...a taxi on the way to a party in New York one windy March evening, Jeannette Walls catches a glimpse of her mother, Rose Mary Walls (Mom) rifling through a dumpster... (full context)
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Since she is only two blocks away from the party, Jeannette worries that Mom will see her and begin to talk to her, and that a... (full context)
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Possessions and Ownership Theme Icon
Responsibility, Self-Sufficiency, and Non-Conformity Theme Icon
...her vases, old books, and Persian rugs (though not her husband, who often works late), Jeannette feels self-loathing, wondering how she can help her parents. They have refused material help before,... (full context)
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Since Mom doesn’t have a phone, Jeannette has to leave a message at a friend of Mom’s and wait a few days... (full context)
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When they meet, Mom seems excited to see Jeannette. She also immediately drops the packets of sauce and dried noodles into her purse to... (full context)
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Jeannette interrupts Mom to say that she’s worried about her, and asks if she can help.... (full context)
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Jeannette admits she was later ashamed that she didn’t say hello. Mom, though she doesn’t seem... (full context)
Part 2: The Desert
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Jeannette recalls her earliest memory, at the age of three, as being on fire. Living in... (full context)
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Jeannette screams for her mother’s help and Mom rushes into the room, throwing an army-surplus blanket... (full context)
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At the hospital, the nurses cut off Jeannette’s beautiful pink dress and tell Mom that Jeannette’s condition is serious, but that she will... (full context)
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The nurses and doctors begin to ask Jeanette about how the burn took place, whether her parents have ever hurt her, and why... (full context)
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Jeannette notices how clean, calm, and quiet the hospital is—far different from what she is used... (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... (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... (full context)
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...him to the hospital—one kid was enough. Dad begins to argue with the doctor about Jeannette’s bandages, saying the wounds need to “breathe.” When he threatens to hit the doctor, the... (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.” He takes her in... (full context)
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A few days after that, Jeannette decides to cook hot dogs again, and Mom praises her for getting “right back in... (full context)
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Following the accident, Jeannette becomes fascinated with fire, passing her finger through a candle flame, watching her neighbors burn... (full context)
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...announces that the family is leaving in fifteen minutes, and should take only the essentials. Jeannette asks if anything is wrong: when Dad responds by rhetorically asking, “Don’t I always take... (full context)
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...isn’t open to anyone who doesn’t like to travel, and throws Quixote out the window. Jeannette begins to cry but Mom tells her not to be sentimental—it will be far more... (full context)
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That night, they sleep under the stars, and when Jeannette tells Lori that they could live like this forever, Lori responds, “I think we’re going... (full context)
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According to Jeannette, Dad is sure FBI agents are after him, though Mom says that the FBI just... (full context)
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...the family stays with Mom’s mom, Grandma Smith, in her large house in Phoenix. Although Jeannette adores Grandma Smith, the stay never lasts long until her grandmother gets into an argument... (full context)
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Jeannette says that like the cactus, the family eats sporadically but fills up when they can.... (full context)
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...find gold to support his family—this is the real reason they move around so much. Jeannette believes him since Dad is an excellent fixer-upper. He is also an expert in math... (full context)
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Jeannette acknowledges that while Dad is “perfect,” things can turn frightening once he embarks on a... (full context)
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Jeannette tells us that Dad left the Air Force because he wanted to strike gold; then... (full context)
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...Dad stop at the Bar None Bar for hours and leave the three kids outside. Jeannette asks Lori how many places they’ve lived, and Lori asks what she means by living... (full context)
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...while drinking beer in the other hand. At one sharp curve, the door opens and Jeannette falls out of the car. Scratched and bloody, initially just shocked but then upset, she... (full context)
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A few days later, Jeannette wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of fire. Dad rushes... (full context)
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...living on the beach, until a policeman tells them it is illegal to sleep there. Jeannette thinks that the policeman is nice enough, but Dad calls him the “gestapo” and says... (full context)
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...upright toward the sky, but its sturdy roots have prevented it from tipping over. Though Jeannette finds the tree ugly, Mom adores it, and stops to make a painting of it. (full context)
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In Midland, Jeannette is afraid of the coyotes and other animals in the desert, and one night becomes... (full context)
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...loads them into the car, and drives off to a pond to throw them in. Jeannette begins to cry, and Mom comforts her by saying that the cats should be grateful... (full context)
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...Lori). The kids often accompany her to paint the Joshua tree again and again. When Jeannette announces a plan to dig up a small sapling and replant it so that it... (full context)
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Jeannette recounts how she never believed in Santa Claus, since Mom and Dad couldn’t afford presents;... (full context)
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Dad tells Jeannette to choose a star for her Christmas present. She picks the one shining the brightest,... (full context)
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In Blythe, Jeannette is now obliged to wear shoes and attend school, where she makes few friends because... (full context)
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One day, four Mexican girls follow Jeannette home and beat her up. When she gets home, she tells Dad that there were... (full context)
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Mom gives birth two months after arriving in Blythe. Jeannette, five at the time, is deemed mature enough to hold the baby, and promises to... (full context)
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Mom doesn’t want to name the baby before studying it for weeks. Jeannette suggests Rosita after a girl at school, but Mom calls that name too “Mexican.” She... (full context)
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Jeannette is enrolled in second grade with a teacher named Miss Page, but already knows most... (full context)
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Jeannette meets other kids around the “Tracks” whose families are just as poor—here, money doesn’t matter. (full context)
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Jeannette starts a rock collection from what she finds in the desert, with granite, obsidian, turquoise,... (full context)
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Jeannette also likes going to the dump with Brian, where they collect batteries, oil drums, and... (full context)
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...linger until the owner yells at them to leave. Brian usually settles on SweeTarts and Jeannette on Sugar Daddies, since, though she loves chocolate, it doesn’t last long enough. (full context)
Growing Up, Illusion, and Disillusion Theme Icon
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...their way home, they sneak past the Green Lantern, which Mom calls a “cathouse,” though Jeannette only sees women in short dresses, and men ducking inside. Mom only says that “bad... (full context)
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One day Jeannette dares Brian to talk to one of the women on the porch. He tells Jeannette... (full context)
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...order to allow nature to “take its course,” rather than buying a No-Pest Strip like Jeannette’s friend’s Carla’s family. (full context)
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That winter, Dad brings the family to the “Hot Pot,” a natural sulfur spring. Jeannette is unused to large bodies of water and they frighten her. As Jeannette wades in,... (full context)
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One day, Jeannette arrives home from exploring to learn from Lori that Dad has lost his job. Dad,... (full context)
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Jeannette begins to steal inconspicuous pieces of food from other kids’ lunch boxes at schools. One... (full context)
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Mom turns red and yells at Jeannette not to blame her. That night, she gets into a fight with Dad, accusing him... (full context)
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...Beatty, especially disapproves of Mom’s teaching tactics. Afraid Mom will be fired, Lori, Brian, and Jeannette start helping out with classroom tasks and homework grading. (full context)
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Lori corrects Mom’s spelling—she loves reading and writing and, according to Jeannette, is brilliant. (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 there’s no food in... (full context)
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...and Brian agree that Dad spends more money on alcohol than on family necessities, but Jeannette defends his research on cyanide. She spends more time with Dad than they do, and... (full context)
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A few months after Mom takes the teaching job, Brian and Jeannette pass the Green Lantern and a woman smoking a cigarette—Ginger—calls out to Brian. He tells... (full context)
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Brian clearly dislikes Ginger so much that Jeannette suspects there is more to the story. She asks Brian if he learned what the... (full context)
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...and even if people tend to make fun of it for being ugly and desolate, Jeannette considers it her first real home. She thinks her family’s days on the road have... (full context)
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Just after Jeannette turns eight, she meets a new neighbor, Billy Deel, who is three years older. Billy... (full context)
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Jeannette is upset and says that you should never laugh at your own father. Billy responds... (full context)
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At dinner back with her family, Jeannette makes fun of Billy’s dad and their run-down house, but Mom tells Jeannette to show... (full context)
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As a result, Jeannette tells Billy she’ll be his friend but not girlfriend. A week later, Billy comes up... (full context)
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A few weeks later, while playing hide-and-seek, Billy crawls into Jeannette’s hiding place, an abandoned shed. He asks if she knows what they do in the... (full context)
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The following day, Jeannette goes to Billy’s house and finds him in the driver’s seat of an abandoned car... (full context)
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Jeannette responds only, “Big deal!” When she returns home, she looks up the word in the... (full context)
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The day after that, Billy comes to meet Lori, Brian, and Jeannette at her house and calls out Jeannette’s name. Lori tries to tell him to leave... (full context)
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...Billy goads her into shooting, and she pulls the trigger in his general direction. When Jeannette opens her eyes, he has disappeared, and the three of them run after Billy, who... (full context)
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...with Mom and Dad inside parks outside the house. Dad asks them what’s happened, and Jeannette says they acted in self-defense—Dad had always told her that was justifiable. (full context)
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Jeannette runs to get her rock collection, since Dad has told the kids they can only... (full context)
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On the way to Phoenix, Jeannette reminisces about her trips to Grandma Smith’s white house in Phoenix, where she assumes they’re... (full context)
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Jeannette, on the other hand, is Grandma Smith’s favorite grandchild, and loves all the rules, such... (full context)
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On the way to Phoenix, Jeannette asks if the family is going to stay with Grandma Smith. Mom says no—that Grandma... (full context)
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Mom is surprised when Jeannette gets upset. They’re going to Phoenix to live in Grandma Smith’s house, she says. Mom... (full context)
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...announces that she can see each leaf on a tree several dozen feet away. When Jeannette responds that she can also see them, Lori bursts into tears. (full context)
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...steady money. After his first payday, he buys three new bicycles for Lori, Brian, and Jeannette—their first. Jeannette marvels at the seat, purple color, and chrome handlebars with tassels hanging off. (full context)
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The neighborhood is also filled with creepy old men, though Jeannette sometimes feels sorry for them for lacking friends, and with homeless people who wander into... (full context)
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...Mom asks him to listen to the guard, he leads the kids out the exit. Jeannette hears people whispering about the drunk and his dirty children, but is thrilled enough at... (full context)
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...electrician’s job, and then another and another, until he is left only with odd jobs. Jeannette usually can afford school lunch for a quarter, though when she can’t her teacher takes... (full context)
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...new dresses, and Mom reemerges with one tucked under a raincoat, while Brian, Lori, and Jeannette make noise to distract the shop employee. (full context)
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...into Dad’s story, and after seeing him come home repeatedly drunk, angry, and breaking things, Jeannette begins to question his narrative too. (full context)
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Sometimes, when he passes out, Jeannette picks his pocket, as Mom taught her to do. Once she tries the liquid in... (full context)
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...all found their own ways to cope on their own with his “crazy” ways, as Jeannette says. (full context)
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When Jeannette turns ten that spring, Dad asks what she wants most in the world—surprising her, since... (full context)
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Dad looks wounded, and says that Jeannette must be ashamed of him. She assures him she’s not, but he walks into the... (full context)
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The next day, he tells Jeannette that he’s going to stay in the bedroom alone for a few days. The day... (full context)
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...him, though he’s pale and thin with shaking hands, and he’s never hungry. Lori tells Jeannette that it won’t last, but Jeannette insists it will, since getting sober was a present... (full context)
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...Grand Canyon. They pack up the car and, once just out of Phoenix, Dad asks Jeannette how fast she thinks the car can go. “Faster than the speed of light,” she... (full context)
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Though Jeannette is confident he can fix the car, Dad says he doesn’t have the right tools.... (full context)
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...turns from a fight to an embrace and they each laugh and hug each other. Jeannette is distraught that Dad has returned to drinking. (full context)
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...come as the rest of the family packs up the car. At the last minute, Jeannette cries out that they need him, and the other kids chime in, until he ambles... (full context)
Part 3: Welch
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...takes to cross the country, and one morning wake up to Oklahomans laughing at them. Jeannette hides under a blanket and refuses to come out, leading Mom to admonish her to... (full context)
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By late November, they reach West Virginia, where Jeannette notices that the air feels heavier and darker. They arrive in Welch, a valley flanked... (full context)
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...welcomed by a pale, obese woman with a cigarette in her mouth—she is Dad’s mother. Jeannette calls her Grandma but she snaps at her to call her Erma. (full context)
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Next to Erma a fragile-looking man with white hair, Ted, tells Jeannette it’s fine if she calls him Grandpa. Redheaded Uncle Stanley, smelling like whiskey, hugs and... (full context)
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Jeannette doubts that Erma likes them, but Mom says that she’s had a difficult life, and... (full context)
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The next day, Jeannette sees Uncle Stanley listening to the radio, on which they hear someone speaking in tongues,... (full context)
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...where Mom tries to convince the principal that the kids are gifted. The principal asks Jeannette eight times seven in such a thick accent that she doesn’t understand—and he can’t understand... (full context)
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Jeannette arrives for her first day in an old coat with the buttons torn off, and... (full context)
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In English, Jeannette’s teacher goads the students into making fun of Jeannette for thinking she’s too special to... (full context)
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Jeannette lingers in the cafeteria, eating alone, until the janitor nudges her outside to recess. The... (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... (full context)
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Jeannette finally tells Mom only that girls are making fun of her for being poor, and... (full context)
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A month into school, Jeannette is wandering in a park and sees a wild dog approaching a small black child,... (full context)
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Jeannette carries the boy piggyback to a neighborhood with brightly painted houses. She drops him off... (full context)
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The next day, Dinitia stops bullying Jeanette, and the others soon lose interest. Though she never apologizes, Dinitia does ask Jeannette for... (full context)
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Jeannette tells her not to use that word, and that Mom says black people are just... (full context)
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Lori congratulates Jeannette on standing up to Erma, but Mom says that they have to remember to be... (full context)
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...relatives, essentially as a servant. She says everyone has one good thing in them. When Jeannette asks if that applies to Hitler, Mom immediately responds that he loved dogs. (full context)
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Jeannette envies Mom and Dad for returning to Phoenix, where she remembers riding her bike, eating... (full context)
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Brian and Jeannette wonder aloud if Mom and Dad will return. The kids know that they are more... (full context)
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...into Grandpa’s bedroom, where she can sew up his shorts while he’s still wearing them. Jeannette follows them into the bedroom and sees Erma squeezing at Brian’s crotch while he cries... (full context)
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Jeannette yells at Erma to stop and calls her a pervert. Lori runs in and tells... (full context)
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...trouble they’ve caused. Dad heads downstairs to yell at them for not being proper guests. Jeannette thinks he’ll understand when she explains, but Dad only says that Brian can take anything,... (full context)
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Afterwards, Jeannette and her siblings wonder why Dad was acting so strange. Jeannette asks aloud if Erma... (full context)
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Still committed to the adventure of it, Mom tries to teach Lori and Jeannette how to use the house’s sewing machine to make dresses, though they turn out baggy... (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... (full context)
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Jeannette and Brian decide to embrace this new home by beginning to dig the foundation for... (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 been able... (full context)
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The garbage also attracts rats, one of whom Jeannette discovers “bathing” in the sugar bowl. When Brian throws a skillet at the rat, it... (full context)
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Jeannette, Brian, and Lori begin to sleep with makeshift weapons by their heads, while Maureen spends... (full context)
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...doesn’t seem worried about what the neighbors will think about the garbage or cleanliness, but Jeannette tries to think up ways to improve the house, like painting it yellow with paint... (full context)
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The rest of the family is unenthusiastic about this idea, so Jeannette embarks alone, until she has completed all the sections of the house that she can... (full context)
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Jeannette’s family is the poorest on Little Hobart Street, but Mom and Dad never accept welfare,... (full context)
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Jeannette is friendly with the oldest of the six Hall children who live nearby: 42-year-old Kenny,... (full context)
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The oldest Pastor daughter, Kathy, wants to be Jeannette’s friend, and invites her over so that she can tell Ginnie Sue about her family’s... (full context)
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When she visits, Ginnie Sue asks Jeannette to help her pick apart a chicken, and Ginnie Sue and Kathy marvel at Jeannette’s... (full context)
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Jeannette tells the two of them about California and Las Vegas, exaggerating her proximity to showgirls,... (full context)
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On her way home, Jeannette realizes she hadn’t asked any of her questions—she had even forgotten Ginnie Sue was a... (full context)
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...of Little Hobart Street,” against Ernie Goad. It starts when Ernie begins throwing rocks at Jeannette and Brian for “stinking up” the town. He yells that they’re garbage—they even live in... (full context)
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...his friends, they think. When Ernie’s gang returns, Brian gives the signal and he and Jeannette catapult the mattress lined with rocks into the air, hurling them into the group of... (full context)
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Lori is the family’s biggest reader, and enjoys fantasy and science fiction. Jeannette prefers books about the hardships of this world rather than another: her favorites are The... (full context)
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...with deep, bloody cuts on his head and arm. Mom is asleep and Dad asks Jeannette to sew up his arm. She feels like she’s sewing meat, and tells him she... (full context)
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...to hit a windfall, by figuring out how to burn coal more efficiently, for instance. Jeannette tries to be supportive but finds it increasingly difficult to believe in him. (full context)
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At school, Jeannette hides in the bathroom during lunch so that the other kids don’t make fun of... (full context)
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...have a stable food source, since she rotates among her friends’ houses for dinner. But Jeannette notices Mom is getting heavier, and one day Brian finds her eating a giant Hershey... (full context)
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As winter arrives in Welch, Jeannette begins to feel ill. She wears only a thin wool coat, and the family can’t... (full context)
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One day Jeannette goes to her friend Carrie Mae’s house to work on a school project. When Carrie... (full context)
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...winter, Erma dies. She had long 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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Four days later Mom sends Jeannette to find Dad, who still hasn’t come home. She moves from bar to bar and... (full context)
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Dad orders Jeannette Cokes as he continues drinking whiskey, until he is stumbling so much that a man... (full context)
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One time, when Jeannette goes over to take a bath, she feels Uncle Stanley’s hand easing its way onto... (full context)
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One day, as Jeannette and Brian are exploring, they find a diamond ring, which Mom takes to be appraised.... (full context)
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...when she decides to clean the house. Instead of ridding it of the clutter, though—like Jeannette wants to do—they end up just organizing the clutter into piles. (full context)
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Jeannette takes advantage of one cheerful moment to broach a grand plan to Mom: that Mom... (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 porch he points down... (full context)
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To get away from the heat, Brian and Jeannette go to the public swimming pool, until the day Ernie Goad tells everyone that the... (full context)
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Later that week Jeannette runs into Dinitia Hewitt, who invites her to go swimming with “us” in the morning.... (full context)
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That afternoon, a man with a folder under his arm knocks on the door to Jeannette’s house saying he’s from child welfare, and asking for Rex or Rose Mary Walls. He... (full context)
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Jeannette claims she’s not neglected, and that her parents do work—her dad as an “entrepreneur” developing... (full context)
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Angry and fuming, Jeannette runs outside to throw rocks from the hill, and worries about how she’ll be unable... (full context)
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Though Jeannette had initially assumed Welch was one more, brief stop, Mom and Dad seem to have... (full context)
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When Jeannette gives Mom the child welfare man’s card, Mom grows quiet instead of being self-righteously angry... (full context)
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...difficult to make ends meet with four kids and an alcoholic husband, but Lori and Jeannette draw up a budget as if they were in charge of the money, with generous... (full context)
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That fall Jeannette starts seventh grade at Welch High School. Though Dinitia is there, she spends most of... (full context)
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...at school, and has trouble with her mother’s new boyfriend. She passes one note to Jeannette one study hall in December revealing that she’s pregnant. When she doesn’t return to school,... (full context)
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Romantic relationships begin to be the main point of conversation for girls at school. Jeannette doesn’t trust boys, but wishes one would like her even though she’s tall, gangly, and... (full context)
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Jeannette has never been to the dentist, and while she initially decides to save up for... (full context)
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Seventh grade is also when Jeannette begins to work for The Maroon Wave, the school newspaper, where she can fit in... (full context)
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In the evenings, Jeannette proofreads at the offices of The Welch Daily News, where the Wave is printed, and... (full context)
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Jeannette also enjoys watching the reporters and editors at work, as they send journalists out to... (full context)
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Jeannette sometimes feels badly about not taking care of Maureen, so that year, she, Brian, and... (full context)
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Though at times like these, Jeannette thinks Mom is incredibly wise, Mom’s moods are also becoming more intense and extreme. Near... (full context)
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Lori tries to console Mom as she sobs under the covers, but Jeannette looks on, feeling scornful about her mother’s childish behavior. She swears that she will not... (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 caryatid (ancient... (full context)
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...for her teaching certificate. Lori is heading to a state-sponsored summer camp, so Mom leaves Jeannette with two hundred dollars, giving her an opportunity to prove that Dad just needs a... (full context)
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The first week, Jeannette sticks to her budget and organizes the house, which has again become a mess. (full context)
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...and asks for money for beer and cigarettes—five dollars, or two days’ worth of food. Jeannette finds herself unable to say no, but feels used. (full context)
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...and then twenty, claiming he needs gas to borrow a friend’s car for a meeting. Jeannette feels increasingly desperate, and when Dad asks if he’s ever let her down, Jeannette is... (full context)
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That weekend, Dad tells Jeannette to accompany him on a business trip to pay back that money. He picks out... (full context)
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Though Jeannette expects Dad will be furious once he realizes what’s happening, he seems nonchalant and simply... (full context)
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Robbie invites Jeannette upstairs to listen to a Roy Acuff record and dance. Jeannette is worried about his... (full context)
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Upstairs, Robbie dances with Jeannette but then starts groping and kissing her. Jeannette is too mad at Dad to want... (full context)
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Afterward, Dad gives Jeannette forty of the dollars he’s won, and though Jeannette is seething, she accepts the money... (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 another twenty... (full context)
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Jeannette finally realizes that standing up to Dad is more difficult than she’d thought. She applies... (full context)
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Jeannette enjoys the work at the store since anyone buying jewelry is happy, despite Welch’s poverty.... (full context)
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Jeannette is particularly attracted to the watches, which actually serve a purpose and stands for someone’s... (full context)
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One day, an employee from another of Mr. Becker’s stores stops by and, in conversation, Jeannette learns the other woman makes a commission of ten per cent of every sale. When... (full context)
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The next day Jeannette slips into the watch display case, which Mr. Becker doesn’t see a need to keep... (full context)
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But since she’s worried about being seen with the watch on, Jeannette decides to only wear it at home—but then wonders how to explain it to her... (full context)
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...friends, food, and songs of her summer. It’s the first time she’s realized, she tells Jeannette, that she could have a happy, normal life. (full context)
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...on herself rather than others by quitting teaching and working on her art. She asks Jeannette why she should be the one earning money, and says that Jeannette and Lori can... (full context)
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The first day of school, Mom refuses to leave with Lucy Jo, and when Jeannette’s cajoling doesn’t work, Jeannette says that to be treated like a mother Mom should act... (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 her parents. Jeannette repeats that neither... (full context)
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Jeannette races outside and into the woods, where she throws up. She wanders for hours through... (full context)
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Jeannette buys a plastic piggy bank and puts the seventy-five dollars she’s earned at her job... (full context)
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...Gross, arrive in Welch as part of a government cultural program. Despite their funny names, Jeannette is awed by their clever, complex humor and the symbolist foreign films they show. After... (full context)
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Jeannette offers to make her escape fund a joint fund, and she and Lori name the... (full context)
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One day that winter, Jeannette arrives home to find a Cadillac Coupe DeVille outside their house, which Dad has won... (full context)
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...some of her paintings. When the family accompanies her, they sleep in the car, and Jeannette remembers how easy it used to be to stay on the move. (full context)
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Jeannette says that Lori should still go to New York, get a job, and save up... (full context)
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One May evening, Jeannette returns to her bedroom to put a few babysitting dollars into Oz, and finds him... (full context)
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Jeannette wonders desperately if she can quickly make back the nine months’ worth of money that... (full context)
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...come home for three days, and when he does he seems nonchalant despite Lori’s and Jeannette’s fury. He throws a few dollars at them. Jeannette asks him why he’s doing this... (full context)
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The next day Jeannette buys a change purse, which she wears under her clothes, and then hides in a... (full context)
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They have made only $37.20 by the summer, when one of Jeannette’s babysitting families offers to take her to Iowa to take care of their two children... (full context)
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...family and leaves without looking back. Dad says that the family is falling apart, and Jeannette agrees. (full context)
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Now in the tenth grade, Jeannette becomes the news editor of The Maroon Wave, and enjoys attending school events since she... (full context)
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Jeannette spends her lunch hour writing and editing, giving her an excuse for why she doesn’t... (full context)
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Jeannette gets the editor-in-chief job as a junior and sells newspapers in the hallways. She only... (full context)
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...Dad’s heroes, comes to give a speech at Welch High. Dad is thrilled and helps Jeannette think up all kinds of questions, since Yeager has agreed to let her interview him.... (full context)
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Chuck Yeager holds the entire school in thrall, and later allows Jeannette to interview him for almost an hour. During the interview she mentions the airplanes he’s... (full context)
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...waitress at a German Restaurant, taking classes, and loving how art and music are everywhere. Jeannette counts down the months until she can join her. (full context)
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Jeannette has decided to enroll in a city college in New York and apply for a... (full context)
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When Jeannette goes to see Miss Katona, the college guidance counselor, she advises Jeannette to apply to... (full context)
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When Jeannette tells her parents her plan, Dad walks out without saying anything. Mom encourages her to... (full context)
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Lori offers Jeannette a place in her apartment, and Brian starts counting down the months, as Jeannette had... (full context)
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One evening, though, he asks Jeannette to take a look at something with him. He spreads the blueprints for the Glass... (full context)
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Jeannette tells Dad that he’ll never build the Glass Castle, and that even if he does... (full context)
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Dad suggests that Jeannette can stay in Welch and get a job at The Welch Daily News while he... (full context)
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Jeannette tells him that there’s no way she’s staying put, and if he builds the Glass... (full context)
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At the end of May, Jeannette is feeling increasingly scared. She says goodbye to Miss Bivens, who assures her that she’ll... (full context)
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As Jeannette packs, she decides to leave everything from the past behind, even her geode, which she... (full context)
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Jeannette leaves on the seven-ten morning bus, so Mom, who likes to sleep in, doesn’t wake... (full context)
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As Jeannette looks out the window at Dad, she wonders if he had left Welch at 17... (full context)
Part 4: New York City
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As Jeannette approaches the city, she wonders if all people will see is a tall, awkward, Appalachian... (full context)
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...the bus station, Lori’s friend Evan meets her. He offers to carry her suitcase, but Jeannette soon takes it back. He comments that West Virginia girls are a tough breed. (full context)
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Jeannette meets Lori at the restaurant where she works, called Zum Zum. As she waitresses, Lori... (full context)
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Jeannette wanders around while she’s waiting for Lori, and finds that New Yorkers, once they learn... (full context)
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Lori and Jeannette head to the Evangeline, a women’s hostel, that evening. Jeannette notices an orange glow in... (full context)
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It only takes a day for Jeannette to get a job at a hamburger joint, which pays over eighty dollars a week.... (full context)
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That summer, Jeannette and Lori move into an apartment in the South Bronx, a bit shabby but far... (full context)
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Jeannette enrolls in a school that offers internships rather than classes. She interns at The Phoenix,... (full context)
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...mouse runs over her foot, terrifying the candidate. When the woman leaves Mr. Armstrong offers Jeannette the job, which she accepts. (full context)
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Jeannette starts working ninety-hour weeks, relying on her ten-dollar watch to make sure she isn’t late.... (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,... (full context)
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Jeannette has decided to stay at her job rather than go to college, which she doesn’t... (full context)
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Jeannette applies to Barnard College, the sister school of Columbia. She is accepted. Grants and loans... (full context)
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As a student, Jeannette is hired as an editorial assistant at a famous magazine. Elated, she feels she’s finally... (full context)
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Three years after Jeannette’s move, she is listening to the radio when she hears about a traffic jam on... (full context)
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When Jeannette hangs up, she looks around the small maid’s room where she lives in the psychologists... (full context)
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Jeannette is torn, wanting both to help Mom and Dad and to abandon them. She often... (full context)
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Once, when Jeannette gives some change to a homeless man on Broadway, her friend Carol tells her not... (full context)
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In a political science class at Barnard, Professor Fuchs—one of Jeannette’s favorite professors—asked if conservatives or liberals were right about the cause of homelessness. Jeannette responds... (full context)
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Though Jeannette considers dropping out of Barnard since she feels so hypocritical, like she’s pretending to be... (full context)
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Jeannette meets Mom at a café to try to discuss some options that could ease her... (full context)
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That spring Dad comes down with tuberculosis and is hospitalized. When Jeannette comes to visit him he introduces her to all his new friends (i.e. other patients)... (full context)
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...that year at Lori’s apartment. Mom and Dad give the kids battered street finds, while Jeannette gives Dad warm winter clothes. He says they must be ashamed of him and stomps... (full context)
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...been following along her class syllabi by checking the books out from the library, calls Jeannette to discuss her courses. She says she’s thinking of dropping out, since she’s a thousand... (full context)
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Jeannette goes to visit them and finds boarded-up windows, one light bulb strung from the ceiling,... (full context)
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Jeannette is reminded of their home in Welch and just wants to run away, but she... (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... (full context)
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Jeannette is offered a job at the magazine where she’s been working part-time. Her boyfriend Eric,... (full context)
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As she moves into the Park Avenue apartment, Jeannette thinks about her parents, and wonders if she has found a place she belongs, just... (full context)
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Dad refuses to come visit Jeannette, saying he’d feel out of place, but Mom does come at once and is fascinated... (full context)
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Jeannette then tells her mother that she wants to help her and Dad, either with a... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Jeannette’s editor assigns her a weekly gossip column, which also concerns Mom, who would rather Jeannette... (full context)
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Jeannette adores her new job and the perks that accompany it: the art-gallery openings, movie premieres,... (full context)
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Jeannette is convinced that she couldn’t keep her job if people knew about her family, so... (full context)
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Jeannette marries Eric four years after moving in. Not long after, Mom’s uncle Jim dies, and... (full context)
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Jeannette slowly realizes that this means that Mom’s half of the land is also worth a... (full context)
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Jeannette tells Mom that she can’t ask Eric for a million dollars. Mom tells her how... (full context)
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...job to job and from boyfriend to boyfriend—looking for someone to take care of her, Jeannette says, just as her friends’ families in Welch. (full context)
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One day Maureen comes to see Jeannette, with dark makeup and bleached hair, and mentions Mormon kidnapping cults that need to be... (full context)
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...hospital for a year. After she’s released, she buys a one-way train ticket to California. Jeannette hopes California will become Maureen’s true home, with its warmth, grapes free for picking, and... (full context)
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Though Maureen didn’t want anyone to actually see her off at the train station, Jeannette wakes up early the morning of Maureen’s departure to imagine her leaving. Jeanette regretfully things... (full context)
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Jeannette hardly sees Mom and Dad for a year or so, until she gets a phone... (full context)
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Dad tells Jeannette that he got into a fight with Nigerian drug dealers, which has given him a... (full context)
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Jeannette knows how much chaos Dad has created for her, but also cannot imagine life without... (full context)
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...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 and has a strong desire to pick him up and run down... (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, on the... (full context)
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Jeannette leaves Eric a year later, realizing that he’s not the man for her, and that... (full context)
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Though Jeannette’s desire to always be moving fades, she still enjoys walking at night, where on particularly... (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 she has... (full context)
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...the house, as John tells Mom and Lori about the area’s history and farm life. Jeannette feels comfortable with John, a writer, whose mother is from Tennessee—not far from Welch. (full context)
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...house in Brooklyn and being pursued by two other women, so he hasn’t done badly, Jeannette concludes. (full context)
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John and Jeannette show Mom and Lori the gardens, which they’ve prepared for winter, and Mom seems to... (full context)
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...the green cover and falls into it. Brian’s own daughter Veronica seems fascinated but confused. Jeannette tells her that Grandma Walls is different from her other grandmother, but Jessica notes that... (full context)
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Jeannette shows Mom and Lori the house, the first she’s ever owned, with fireplaces and high... (full context)
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It grows windy outside, and Jeannette notices that the flames from the candle move somewhat, the border between order and turbulence... (full context)