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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Silver Star: A Novel

I am often hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't love Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, often named one of the best memoirs of all time. I am not disagreeing--it was marvelous. When I found that I could grab a copy of her new novel, The Silver Star, I jumped at the chance.

Bean Holladay and her older sister Liz are pros at taking care of themselves. Their mother, a “singer/songwriter”, is often out of town or emotionally incapacitated. After a particularly bad episode, she disappears for some time, and Liz and Bean are forced to travel cross-country on their own to get to their mother’s hometown in Virginia. There they settle in with their eccentric uncle and attempt to find where they fit in the town. When a horrible event is propagated on the family, Bean must decide what kind of person she is—does she stand up for what she knows is right, or does she conform to what the town wants her to be?

I absolutely adore Walls’s writing. She has such a distinctive voice that is unmistakably hardscrabble Southern; I love every second of reading her words and I fall madly for her work every time. This book was no exception—I enjoyed it immensely. 

Walls has created characters that are genuine and flawed, and I love characters that are genuine and flawed. The story is told from Bean’s perspective, and this was a lovely choice that I found fascinating and wonderful to read. I read in an interview recently how much Walls loved the character of Bean, and I can absolutely see how this is the case—she is written with such care and love, and her fiery personality only lends itself to getting into trouble but always for the right reasons. She has a code, and she sticks to it. I admire that.

I adored the story arc in this novel. Bean and Liz’s mother is most likely bipolar (although that’s never made clear in the book); this drives the initial (and later) action of the plot, and it was a fantastic kick-off to the story and one that I think made it all the richer. This is a morality tale interspersed with grit and love, and I am so happy that I spent my hours this weekend with these girls. They are characters with whom I would love to spend any lazy summer day—name the time and place, and I will bring the lemonade.

Kindle on the left, hard copy on the right.

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