This is a memoir by Jeannette Walls. It shares the story of her family. The family moved around a lot in the country and faced a constant shortage of food and cash. This is family seems dysfunctional, but this memoir does not condemn any of the Walls family members.
For some of the first part, the family is living on the west coast in some mining towns. Jeannette explores the nature in the desert and has fantasies about the dream their father had for the family. She collects rocks and maintains interest in the natural as well as a human-made environment. Rex goes through a terrible alcoholism period that leaves the family poor, and they have to move.
After moving to Welch in West Virginia, there is a change in life. Welsh experiences winter and this is another challenge to this family. Since the arrival, the children always want to go back to life in the desert. The family troubles worsen to the point that the children realize it would be easier to leave their parents to gain some stability. Jeannette and Lori aim to relocate to New York and even save some money.
They eventually relocated to New York, and the siblings become settled in their independence. After a period of stability, Rose Mary and Rex get to Manhattan using a van. The couple runs out of money after some time, and their children become unable to support them too. Thus they become homeless again and result in squatting in buildings that were abandoned. Rex has a heart attack and dies.
At the end of the memoir, Jeannette makes reconciliations with the past; she realizes that she does not have to use lies and half-truths anymore. This memoir is her liberation, and she reveals that it allows her to enjoy writing by communication with the rest of the world.