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Review: “The Silver Star” by Jeannette Walls

By Appraisingpages @appraisjngpages
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Jeannette Walls was first recommended to me by a friend, Jena, who is one of those friends whose literary opinions you totally trust.  As soon as she adds a book on Goodreads, so do I, and so far I’ve never been disappointed!  I read Walls’s first book The Glass Castle at Jena’s suggestion and it overtook me.  I was rendered helpless because I couldn’t do anything but read this book and I finished it in less than a day, that’s how strongly I was captivated.  This is my first journey into the fictional world of Jeannette Walls, I haven’t yet read her other novel, Half Broke Horses.

When I saw on Goodreads that she had a new book coming out I could not wait to read it, hence my excitement in posting it on our Instagram profile:

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I love that little symbol!

Here is the Goodreads synopsis of The Silver Star:

The Silver Star, Jeannette Walls has written a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling.It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” 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 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 many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

I also loved this, the author’s video describing her own book in her own words:

There is just something about Walls’s writing that I can’t defend my heart against.  I’m helpless, and I’m forced to say “goodbye” to anything else I was supposed to accomplish while I have her book in my hands.  She writes in a way that’s so intimate yet effortless that it feels as though my best friend since birth is telling me a story over coffee, not that I’m reading a novel on my comfortable couch.  I’ve never read another author that can do this even half as well, and I would love to meet her in person (hint hint: book tour, please make a stop in Phoenix!) and ask her where this quality comes from.

Bean, the character who tells the story in first person, is twelve and is in that precious and frightening time where the entering of adolescence is providing first glimpses into adulthood.  She and her sister are faced with the issues of abandonment, sexism, racism, and politics in the passions of the American South and sometimes it seems as though the rights and wrongs have mixed into such a muddy gray that she doesn’t know what to do.

Even my very minor qualms with the story are truly attributes of the author’s talented writing.  Some of the side characters, other than Bean and Liz, felt under-developed, especially because their mother who was in and out of the story.  But because the story is told from Bean’s perspective and the abandonment by their mother creates such a filter of how they see the world, or possibly even the removal of her inaccurate filter from their vision, I see that Walls was creating the world for the reader that the girls were experience first hand.  Perhaps the development of their mother’s character is a bit latent because that’s the exact role she plays in her daughters’ lives: one of inconsistency.  I’m telling you, she is so impressive that even my small complaints must be turned into raving compliments!

Jeannette Walls’ writing is undeniable, and the complex stories she’s able to tell with the unstoppable voice of an early-adolescent ensures that this book will be a future classic that’s studied in literature classes for years to come.

You can buy her book on Amazon here and find it at Barnes & Noble here.  What are some of your favorite memoirs or true-life novels?

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