Our families may be crazy, dysfunctional, and flawed, but these descriptions barely scratch the surface in books like The Glass Castle. The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls’ memoir about her nomadic childhood in the American Southwest, recounts her parents’ eccentric and occasionally destructive travels through the mountains and desert towns of the region.
Every attempt to lead a “average” life seemed doomed to failure until Walls and her siblings finally refused to accept it any longer. A better life away from their dysfunctional, depressed, and potentially dangerous parents was the goal they set for themselves and each other.
Despite the disappointments, betrayals, and heartbreaks, Walls’ writing about her past and her parents is so warm and endearing that readers are naturally drawn to more books by her. Fiction and memoirs depicting heartbreaking, humorous, tragic, unsavoury and inspiring tales of different familial relationships are included in the following list.
Books like The Glass Castle
The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr
Karr’s moving memoir swept the world when it was published in 1995; it’s often credited with reviving and rewriting the memoir genre, and this list of books like The Glass Castle may have been inspired by it.
Her father was a heavy drinker, her mother had mental health issues, and Karr herself had experienced death, despair, and abuse, all of which are depicted in The Liars’ Club.
Throughout the book, Karr takes us on a journey through Texas, describing her parents’ turbulent marriage, her time in Colorado with her mother’s new leering boyfriend, and her return to Texas to assist her father in dying.
The Liars’ Club is an enduring memoir and page-turner because Karr is unapologetically honest, unsentimental in details, and darkly comic in her recollection of events.
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, by Roddy Doyle
In 1993, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle was awarded the Booker Prize for fiction. Patrick ‘Paddy’ Clarke, ten years old, tells a heartbreaking story about the breakdown of his parents’ marriage and the impact it has on him.
It’s a story told in vignettes that don’t make sense chronologically but gradually reveal the end of the Clarke family’s domestic bliss in Ireland, written in a playful Irish dialect.
While Paddy and his pals play cowboys and write messages on the pavement with chalk in Barrytown, the rest of the time he’s staying up all night to keep his parents safe as they argue. After his father leaves, Paddy is thrust into the role of manhood, and he doesn’t have a choice but to accept the responsibility.
This is one of my all-time favorite books and one I recommend to anyone looking for books that are similar to The Glass Castle, which I studied in high school.
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, explores the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship in a novel-turned-TV series. Mia and Pearl arrive in Shaker Heights, a model suburb of Cleveland, with model houses, model yards, and model families.
Two young women, Mia and Pearl, find themselves entwined in a whirlwind romance with the Richardson family, a wealthy and affluent group of people who all feel a strong attraction to them.
It all goes downhill from there, with Elena being forced to dig deep into Mia’s past in order to uncover a secret that will have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the town when an adoption legal battle breaks out and splits the community in two.
As in the previous book in this series, Little Fires Everywhere, these women’s secrets and how far they’ll go for the sake of their children grip you. Fans of books like The Glass Castle will enjoy this page-turning tale of intrigue and suspense in literature.
What if I’ve already read this book? More books like Little Fires Everywhere can be found on our recommended reading list.
Naked, by David Sedaris
It’s no surprise that David Sedaris’ work is filled with tears of joy and sorrow, and Naked is just one of his many books of short stories that chronicle various events in his life.
When he wrote his second book, Naked, it was about his unusual childhood in North Carolina with his five siblings. It was published in 1997. There are stories of his struggle with addiction, coming to terms with his homosexuality, as well as hilarious anecdotes about visiting a nudist colony and pretending to be newlyweds while hitchhiking.
He has a rare talent for blending moments of pure joy, like his sister’s wedding, with moments of pure sorrow, like his mother’s long battle with cancer and the looming shadow of her death. Sedaris has a singular perspective on the world, one that is both darkly comic and witty, and one that spares no one.
Anyone looking for more books about families in the vein of The Glass Castle will enjoy reading Naked by a new author who is one of my personal favorites.
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
When it comes to books like The Glass Castle and William Faulkner’s classic As I Lay Dying, we can expect to see a wide range of emotions, from utter darkness to utter lightness.
Different family members tell the story in turn as they travel through Mississippi’s countryside to bury their mother and wife Addie, who died with the wish to be buried in her hometown of Addie’s hometown. The journey is harrowing.
Faulkner uses a stream-of-consciousness writing style to portray the various family members through the eyes of others during this journey that includes arrests, nearly losing the coffin and body, theft, hunger, and broken bones.
To understand why As I Lay Dying is regarded as one of the greatest American novels of the 20th century, one need only look at the author’s writing style.
Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews
Flowers in the Attic will appeal to fans of The Glass Castle who appreciate the Walls family’s ability to work together for the common good. The Dollanganger family returns to the estate of their mother’s estranged parents after their father’s untimely death in V.C. Andrews’ 1979 gothic novel, a harrowing portrayal of abuse concealed by a veil of protection.
As a result of their grandfather’s displeasure, the four children are sent to live in the attic for the time being. As the four children are deprived of food, sunlight, and what appears to be any hope of freedom, a few weeks hidden turns into years of agonizing imprisonment.
Because of their mother’s decreasing frequency of visits and their grandmother’s increasing suffering, the children realize they must band together in order to find a way out. Flowers in the Attic is a chilling tale that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading it.
Is this your first time reading it? Other books like Flowers in the Attic can be found on our recommended reading list page!