Reader’s Annotation: Growing up, Jeannette Walls and her siblings survive malnutrition, beatings, and dilapidated shelters before they escape poverty and alcoholism to forge their own way in the world.
Summary: Rex and Rose Mary Walls are too intelligent for their own good since their philosophies and convictions lead them to live a life of poverty by choice. Raising four children in the deserts of California and Nevada, neither parent is capable of holding a steady job. Lori, Jeannette, Brian and Maureen learn to scavenge for food and protect each other from all manner of threats. Jeannette thinks they may finally have a home when her mother inherits a house in Phoenix, but before long Rex’s alcoholism and Rose Mary’s depression force the family to move to Welch, West Virginia where Rex was raised. In Welch, the Walls children grow into teenagers with a common goal—getting out. Working on the school newspaper, Jeannette discovers her talent for journalism and, together with her siblings, begins to dream of moving to New York City. But first they must all reconcile the need to sever ties with their parents.
Notes: Walls recounts her horrifying experiences without self-pity, revealing her own inner strength and the resilience of the human spirit. Her depiction of the rural poverty throughout the United States is eye-opening. Content to be aware of—strong language, sexual abuse.