Five years after Dad dies, Jeannette awaits Mom and Lori at the train station near the country farmhouse that she has recently bought and renovated with her second husband, John. He suggested that she invite her family to Thanksgiving there.
With a rapid fast-forward between Parts 4 and 5, we shift from a turbulent, transitional moment to what looks like a kind of stability for Jeannette. Dad never built the Glass Castle. But Jeanette has built this house.
They drive through the woods and marsh ponds to 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.
Though Jeannette had always refused to admit that Welch was any kind of a home to her, her comfort with John’s family history suggests otherwise. She seems to have found a balance between city and country.
When they arrive, Brian and Jessica, John’s daughter from his first marriage, come out of the house, and Brian teases Mom about the dumpster gifts she probably has brought for the family.
In New York, these gifts were a cause of shame for Dad, but by now the family seems comfortable enough to be able to joke about them.
Brian, now a sergeant detective, is now divorced from his wife. But he’s enjoyed his time renovating a town house in Brooklyn and being pursued by two other women, so he hasn’t done badly, Jeannette concludes.
Simply escaping from Welch and from Mom and Dad is clearly no guarantee that all would be easy for the Walls kids, though that realization is part of growing up for them.
John and Jeannette show Mom and Lori the gardens, which they’ve prepared for winter, and Mom seems to appreciate their self-sufficiency.
Jeannette still values Mom’s appreciation. And she’s internalized, and accepted, at least some of Mom’s creed of self-sufficiency.
When Mom sees the pool, she shrieks in delight as she runs onto 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 Jeanette and her mother’s laugh are exactly alike.
Mom’s childlike qualities have often exasperated Jeannette. Yet through Veronica’s eyes she can again see how her mother’s non-conformist exuberance can be exhilarating. Further, Jessica’s comment about the similarity of Mom and Jeanette’s laugh notes that despite Jeanette’s vow to never be like her mother, she will always, because Mom is her mother, share similarities with her. And that Jeanette notes this with calm suggests that as she has grown up and built her own home, she has come to accept her past and her parents as part of herself.
Jeannette shows Mom and Lori the house, the first she’s ever owned, with fireplaces and high ceilings. The kitchen is packed with multiple Thanksgiving dishes, and as Brian and Jeannette look at the spread she knows he’s thinking the same thing she is—as he puts it, it’s not that difficult to feed a family. But Lori admonishes him not to mention that now.
Jeanette is not ashamed of these possessions, yet they are also a different sort of possession from the art objects she shared with Eric. Seeing the meal reminds all the Walls of their resentments about the way they were raised—how their parents put their own needs and cares among providing even the most simple needs, like food, for their children, shows how they can never entirely escape that past. Yet that they don’t criticize their mother or get angry suggests that while that past will always be a part of them it doesn’t have to rule them, that they can grow beyond it.
At dinner, Mom says that the city has finally decided to sell the apartments to the squatters for one dollar each. She’ll have to return soon for the squatters’ board meeting, she says.
Not long after Jeannette finally owns a home of her own, it seems that Mom will be able to as well. Mom has found a home among the squatters.
Mom also mentions that Maureen is thinking about coming back for a visit.
As the novel comes to a close, loose ends are tied up, so that the reader can place Maureen’s status as well.
The family, following John’s suggestion, drinks a toast to Dad: “Life with your father was never boring,” Mom says.
The toast is a massive understatement, but also seems a proper homage.
It grows windy outside, and Jeannette notices that the flames from the candle move somewhat, the border between order and turbulence shifting again.
It is fitting that the novel ends with fire, so omnipresent in Jeannette’s life. This time it is a fire on a candle, though, a controlled fire within a stable home, and yet Jeanette also still has the lessons her father taught her, can still appreciate that beauty on the border between order and chaos, and that appreciation enlivens her life.