The Glass Castle – Discussion Questions (INCLUDES SPOILERS)

These questions are free for your personal use and to share with your book groups. Please do not print and distribute; instead provide this link to your fellow readers.

  1. In Chapter 1, “A Woman on the Street,” adult Jeannette watches from a taxi as her mother, wrapped in rags to stay warm, picks through trash in New York City. How would your reading experience have changed in the absence of this chapter?
  2. There is a recurring theme of fire, starting with Chapter 2 when Jeannette, who is just a little older than a toddler, accidentally catches her dress on fire.  Fire appears again and again, with the burning of the family Christmas tree, Lori’s burns, and the fire in Jeannette’s grandparents’ house in Welch, VA.  What is the role of fire for the Walls family?
  3. At the time of this writing in 2021 the author is 61, which means the events of The Glass Castle took place in the 1960s and 70s. Only later in the book were there any references that helped place events in time. What was your comfort level with the lack of dates in which events took place? Did you research this while reading?
  4. After the Walls children move to New York City as young adults in Chapter 56, they meet for regular meals of “fried pork chops or heaping plates of spaghetti and meatballs.” Take a few minutes to revisit this passage. How are you impacted by this description of the siblings’ weekend dinners, as they eat together and laugh about their past experiences?
  5. As the book wraps up, Jeannette and her parents relate to each other as adults. What surprises you about their relationship, and would you interact with the Walls parents differently than Jeannette does? If so, how? What do you think might contribute to Jeannette’s level of acceptance of her parents’ life choices?
  6. What did the Walls parents do right?
  7. Compare your reactions in Question 5 to your initial reactions after reading Chapter 1. (See Question 1.) Are those reactions the same or have they changed?

Copyright 2021 Catherine Beeman / Your Book Group