The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Finished on November 26, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.
An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, and the sisters start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Liz is whip-smart--an inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist, but when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz in the car with Maddox.
Jeannette Walls has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.
It's been a long time since I read Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle. 18 years, to be precise. I thought the book was very good in spite of its depressing subject matter, but when Walls published her first novel (a "true-life novel" based on her grandmother's life), Half Broke Horses, and I read the publisher's blurb, I simply wasn't interested. And yet, when The Silver Star landed on my TBR stack, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad that I did! I devoured this coming-of-age novel in two nights. Bean is one of those spunky, resourceful, wise-beyond-her-years protagonists that I love, and I was eager to see how she and her older sister would fare in their new community. The novel feels a bit like a YA story, but it held my interest from cover to cover, and now I'm eager to read Walls' most recent novel, Hang the Moon. I may even give Half Broke Horses a chance, too.