Pick of the Week: The Silver Star
I’ve been on a Jeannette Walls reading kick this month. I started with her brilliant memoir, The Glass Castle, which unflinchingly tells her story about growing up dirt poor, sometimes homeless, with two creative but irresponsible parents. I followed Glass Castle with the fascinating true-life novel about Walls’ grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, in Half Broke Horses.
In Walls’ moving new novel, The Silver Star, all the characters come from her imagination. Yet it is clear she draws from her personal experiences about how tough and resilient children can be in the face of neglectful or abusive adults. Sisters Jean “Bean’’ and Liz Holladay learn at a young age how to fend for themselves when their mother Charlotte starts leaving them on their own while she pursues her dreams of becoming a musician and composer.
In 1970, when Charlotte takes off yet again and doesn’t return, 15-year-old Liz and12-year-old Bean decide to embark on a bus journey from their shack in the California desert to their Uncle Tinsley’s home in Virginia. Tinsley grudgingly welcomes them into his rundown house, which once had been a stately mansion and the entertainment heart of the mill town. Bean quickly embraces her new life, and learns more about the father who died before she was born. Her older sister Liz has difficulty adjusting to her new surroundings, and becomes more isolated. When tragedy strikes Liz, the sisters once again face having to overcome adversity.
I really enjoyed The Silver Star, and read it in one day. Jeannette Walls is exemplary at writing from a child’s point of view and telling an entertaining story. I highly recommend this coming-of-age tale about love, family, and strength.