The true story of a strange and sad upbringing of journalist Jeannette Walls and her three siblings. At first the family maintains a cheerful, bohemian existence as they move between various small towns, but eventually they spiral downward into squalor and semi-starvation. Caught between an alcoholic father, and a free spirited, indifferent mother the children band together to feed, clothe and protect themselves. Eventually they move away from their parents to form their own independent household in New York only to have their parents follow and become street people.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
Like a train wreck, this story was hard to look away from. As parents, we found many of the scenes unbelievable and hard to read. How could two highly-intelligent people choose to keep their children filthy and malnourished? Was the father or the mother more to blame? One spent all his money on alcohol, the other refused to use her teaching degree to bring in any money. The result was children eating garbage, sleeping in cardboard boxes and wearing rags. The children themselves showed extraordinary resourcefulness and we applauded them for becoming the well educated, stable people they seem to be today (with the possible exception of the younger sister). It was also interesting to read interviews with Walls and hear that her mother likes the book and only objects to her portrayal as a bad driver.