I finished another book recently! I picked up Jeannette Walls’ book The Silver Star (though I was late to the game, as it was published nearly a year ago in June of 2013) because I’ve enjoyed her other books immensely. Despite the controversy that has surrounded The Glass Castle and the criticism it has received as potentially being a work of mostly fiction I frequently recommend it to people who come into the library looking for something different or entertaining. I enjoyed it and Half Broke Horses because they are just descriptive enough and have that unique element of balanced humor and seriousness.
Anyway, back to The Silver Star. The book takes place in the 1970s. Our narrator is 12 year old Bean (Jean) Holladay and the story centers mostly around her and her 15 year old half-sister Liz. At the beginning of the book the girls live with their easy come, easy go mother Charlotte Holladay, a singer/song-writer who conveniently abandons things that are tough or make her uncomfortable. Shortly into the story Charlotte does just that: she abandons the girls, promising to return after she’s had some solo time. When Charlotte hasn’t returned a few weeks later, the girls fear they’ll be found out and moved into foster care. Liz, always the problem-solver and definitely idolized by Bean, suggests they travel across the country to Byler, Virginia, where Uncle Tinsley still lives in the old Holladay mansion.
When the girls arrive in Byler things aren’t quite what they expected. They slowly, at first, form a relationship with Uncle Tinsley and then realize they’ll probably be staying in Byler for awhile. The girls make themselves at home, learning about the Holladay family’s history of owning the mill in Byler, meeting family, exploring, and going to the newly-integrated school. They decide to look for jobs and soon find it at a local family’s house, working for the mill’s foreman, Mr. Maddox. Though initially considered somewhat of an outcast, Bean embraces her new school and the friendships she makes there and with her father’s family. Liz, however, keeps her nose to the grindstone working for Mr. Maddox and begins withdrawing after being made fun of at school. Then something awful happens to her, and she becomes even more withdrawn, while Bean takes charge of the situation, at least as much as one can take charge.
The Silver Star is a coming of age story of two girls in a unique situation, in a classic southern town dealing with some classic issues and some unique ones. I absolutely adored some of the characters: Bean was, of course, my favorite, but Uncle Tinsley, Joe, Aunt Al, and Liz are all wonderful also. Bean’s innocent courage and curiosity remind me a lot of another famous literary character, Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird. Mr. Maddox also reminded me of a character from Harper Lee’s famous masterpiece, as did the atmosphere, storyline, and the storytelling. The Silver Star also many elements that were reminiscent of The Glass Castle, such as the abandonment, the strongman characters, the sibling relationships, and the coping skills, which isn’t surprising, consider they’re written by the same author.
I would probably give this book 4.5/5 stars; if I had just recently finished Jeannette Walls’ other books I might have been more disappointed, as I would definitely consider this book my least favorite (what a back-handed compliment). It was easy to read and possibly geared more toward young readers though it surely appeals to both a young adult and adult audience. While I wouldn’t say the book is fast-paced it does move along easily, but the first third of the book had some moments that were slow. The book has several miniature lessons and moments and characters that left me thinking. Though I didn’t like it as much as I liked either of Walls’ other books or To Kill A Mockingbird, it was a fantastic story that I may pick up again and have already suggested to others. I can’t wait to read more from Jeannette Walls, and am currently seeking a book that reads similarly.