Everything The Glass Castle's Movie Version Is Missing From The Book

Warning: Spoilers for The Glass Castle abound.
Eleven years ago, Jeannette Walls introduced us to her unforgettable family in her memoir, The Glass Castle. In captivating prose, she described her childhood being raised by two people who shirked responsibility and convention, who prioritized adventure over putting food on the table. Woven between scenes of abject poverty and dumpster diving were bouts of dreaming, drawing, and wild, wild freedom.
The Glass Castle was a mega-hit, selling almost three million copies and spending 261 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
The memoir's highly anticipated film adaptation comes out on August 11. While the film preserves key themes from the memoir, many aspects of Jeannette's journey from the Walls family to Park Avenue are shifted around to fit a different, cleaner narrative. Fans of the memoir might leave the theater wondering if they remembered the book incorrectly, but don't worry, your mind isn't playing tricks on you. The Glass Castle movie is a more sentimental, more sanitized version of the shocking book.
Here are the main differences between the cinematic Walls family, and the one that Jeannette Walls initially told us about in her memoir.
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In the movie: Jeannette’s (Brie Larson) relationship with her wealthy fiancé, David (Max Greenfield), is a huge component of the narrative. Her father struggles to accept that his daughter is dating a financial analyst, a job he considers to be emblematic of the corruption of the capitalist system. During one pivotal scene, Rex (Woody Harrelson) and David go head-to-head in an arm wrestle. After David wins, Rex punches him in the face. From then on, David is a source of tension, which comes to a head at Jeannette and David's swanky engagement party.

In the book: Jeannette’s boyfriend, and eventual husband, is named Eric. Walls refers to their apartment on Park Avenue in a couple of sentences, nothing more. Eric is far from a full-fledged character.

“Destin [Daniel Cretton] wrote certain scenes that weren’t in the book, but it was always in conversation with me. He also made my first husband more of a character, but these decisions were always informed by what actually happened,” Walls told Vanity Fair of the inclusion of the David character.
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In the movie: Jeannette is a gossip writer, mingling with New York’s elite and wearing pearls and power suits.

In the book: We know Jeannette is a journalist, but even more significant is Jeannette’s rise to working at a magazine. Walls focuses far more on the journey.

She works for a year answering phones at a financial firm to save up for Barnard. She shuttles between her apartment in the Bronx, where she lives with her brother and sister, to her job at a small newspaper in Brooklyn. She makes her big break as an editorial assistant. But we never see her as a gossip writer — though in real life, she was the head writer for New York magazine’s Intelligencer column.
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In the movie: Rex is rarely shown working, and Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) never has a job.

In the book: Rex has a different job on each stop of his family’s nomadic journey. In Battle Mountain, Rex works in a barite mine, and the family lives in company housing. Then, he decides to quit his job and search for gold full-time. At different points in the book, he works as an electrician, or does odd jobs.

Since her mother made her get a teaching certification, Rose Mary is always able to find a position in the areas’ severely understaffed schools — though she’s often reluctant to do so. Rose Mary often has temper tantrums about going to work. Jeannette and her siblings help Rose Mary with the grading. Though Rose Mary has a steady paycheck, Rex siphons most of it away to fund his drinking.
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In the movie: Young Jeannette’s (Ella Anderson) family visits the local pool during the morning hours, when the town's Black population goes swimming. After taking a sip of beer, her father, Rex, decides now is the right opportunity to teach Jeannette to swim. He throws her again and again into the water. Then, he beats up the lifeguard who questions Rex’s parenting abilities. With the cops on the hunt for Rex, the family decides to move to Welch, West Virginia.

In the book: This movie scene is actually a conflation of multiple scenes from the book. When she’s a girl, Jeannette’s father “teaches” her to swim by throwing her repeatedly into the Hot Pot spring in Nevada. Jeannette goes swimming in the unofficially segregated pool with her friend, Dinitia, while living in West Virginia.

The lifeguard incident never happens, and Rex plunging Jeanette into hot water isn't the reason the family heads to Welch.
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In the movie: During one move, the kids are shut into the back of a moving truck. They hold the baby Maureen in their laps.

In the book: The same thing happens — but in the middle of the ride, the back door of the van swings open, and the four kids almost fly out. This is yet another instance of the film tempering the memoir's extremism.
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In the movie: The family moves to a tiny house on the edge of the mountain in Welch. They work together to make 93 Little Hobart Street a home, brightening it up with Rose Mary's art and painting the exterior yellow.

In the book: 93 Little Hobart Street has no redeeming qualities at all. There is no indoor plumbing. The kids freeze during the winter, and take to dumpster diving. Among the atrocities: Lori burns herself trying to start fire with kerosene. A pervert sneaks in through the open door and touches Jeannette while she's sleeping in bed.
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In the movie: Rose Mary’s mother dies when the family is living in Welch. They leave the kids alone with Grandma Walls, and during that time, Grandma Walls molests Brian.

In the book: Rose Mary’s mother passes away long before the family gets to Welch. She leaves her daughter her large house in Phoenix, and the family moves there for a while. They burn through the money, and the house becomes decrepit. Rose Mary chooses not to sell the house — rather, they leave it behind to rot. After Phoenix, they move to Welch.
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In the movie: Jeannette asks her father to stop drinking while they're living in Welch. He does, and then relapses later on.

In the book: Rex asks Jeannette what she wants for her tenth birthday, and she says she wants him to stop drinking. So, he does. In a similar fashion to what’s shown in the movie, Rex ties himself to the bed, and gets sober.

As a celebration, he takes his family to the desert outside of Phoenix, but their old jalopy breaks down. A woman rescues them on their walk back to Phoenix, and refers to them as “poor.” Upon returning to Phoenix, Rex takes up drinking again. His change in behavior is what prompts Rose Mary to suggest moving back to Welch.
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In the movie: After Grandma Smith dies, Rex and Rose Mary drive to Texas. The kids move in with Grandma Welch, and live together in the dingy basement. They find a box of Rex’s old things in his old bedroom, including a poem that encapsulates his despair living with his cruel mother.

In the book: They stay with Grandma Smith, but find no breakthrough into Rex's inner life.
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In the movie: Lori (Sarah Snook) is the first sibling to go to New York. She sneaks away into a car with other teenagers. When Rex gets a sense at what's happening, he tries to run the car down and prevent her from leaving. He tries to keep Jeannette by stealing all of the money Jeannette has saved up.

In the book: Rex steals the kids' savings just before Lori is set to leave. Jeannette's working as a babysitter at the time, and her employer asks her to come to Iowa with them for the summer. She insists that Lori go instead, and they buy her a bus ticket to New York at the end of the summer. They agree. The following year, when Jeannette is 17, she joins her sister in New York (Rex walks her to the station). Then, Brian joins. Finally, Maureen comes. The four of them live in a Bronx apartment.
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In the movie: Rex, hurt by Jeannette’s desire to leave Welch and join her sister in New York, passive aggressively enlists Jeannette to help him with a pool hustling scheme. He encourages Jeannette to dance with a slightly older man (Dominic Bogart), and then allows Robbie to take her upstairs, even though she clearly doesn’t want to. She’s almost raped, but gets away after showing Robbie her burn scars on her stomach.

In the book: A similar event takes place, but with slightly more disturbing circumstances. Jeannette is 13 at the time, and Rex isn’t at all angry. This is just another one of his drunken, disturbing schemes. He essentially loans Jeannette out to a man his own age.
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In the movie: At the end of the film, Jeannette’s brother, sister, and mother arrive to her new house for Thanksgiving. The decoration has nothing in common with her lavish Park Avenue apartment. She’s left David, and now she’s living as a freelance writer.

In the book: At the end, Jeannette’s family comes to her house in rural Virginia for Thanksgiving, where she lives with her second husband, the writer John Taylor. As in the movie, the book ends with everyone giving a toast to Rex.
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