Now I understand why Jeannette Walls' parents were so nuts. If I'm remembering correctly from The Glass Castle, Walls' parents were undeniably negligent towards their brood, not recognizing their need for anything tangible - the very definition of selfish.
In this story - and Walls calls it a novel even though it is based on a very real person - we are getting a biography of her grandmother, her mother's mother. A great deal of the story is focused on explaining why Lily Casey Smith was so headstrong, so alternative, so proto-feminist. And it's these characteristics that become such a huge part of her daughter, Walls' mother.
It's both funny and disturbing to read that Lily never washed anybody's clothes on the ranch. They'd just wear them inside out when they were too dirty on the outside. (Holy cats.) And washing jeans was considered sacrilege - the shinier they got, the better they were. (Holy mackerel.) In this day and age, it's hard to read this without your jaw dropping to the floor. This is one of many examples showing that Lily never followed convention, didn't care for rules, and thought walloping kids was the way to keep them in line. How could she not consider that this would leak down to her kids?
Irregardless of the jaw-dropping scenes, it was remarkable to read about a woman who really followed her heart, no matter what, to get what she wanted most. Because it's Walls, you bet it's well-written and engaging as heck. Enjoy what is really a breath of fresh air.