I like to browse Amazon when I’ve got some down time. I’m always amused by what they “recommend” to me. As you know, on occasion I enjoy a trashy romance novel. It’s always funny to see my recommendations after I’ve downloaded one of those bad boys. Sometimes, though, their magical Amazon algorithms work appropriately and aren’t distracted by outliers. The other day I was hunting for a good read and I came across a new release by Jeanette Walls. You know, Jeanette Walls, of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses?! I was REALLY excited! The only problem? It hasn’t been released yet. I hopped on over to NetGalley and hoped against hope that The Silver Star would be listed and that I could somehow convince the publisher to give me a copy. DUDE! IT WORKED!
FULL DISCLOSURE: I conned the wonderful people at Scribner (through NetGalley) into giving me an advanced copy of this book. In exchange for an honest review, of course. Again. I am a horrendous liar. Credibility: in tact.
The Silver Star follows the lives of a pair of sisters named Liz and Bean Holladay. Their mother is a bit of a free spirit… In the sense that she periodically abandons her children to pursue her music career and/or religious enlightenment… Liz and Bean are spooked when, during one of their mother’s prolonged absences, the cops start looming. Liz and Bean decide to hop a bus across the country and hole up in their mom’s hometown with the reclusive uncle they’ve never met. Hey, their options were limited, you know?
Liz is a smart, sensitive overachiever and she’s fiercely protective of Bean. Bean, despite her scattered upbringing, has emerged from childhood largely unscathed thanks to Liz’s consistent influence. Once Bean and Liz arrive in Byler, VA, they confront their mother’s past, their family history, and the realities of small town life in the south during the 70s. Neither Bean nor Liz have met their respective fathers, but being in Byler affords the girls the opportunity to spend some time with Bean’s extended family. Oh yeah. The once wealthy Holladay family is now kind of broke… And integration is happening just in time for the new school year. So. They’ve got a big steaming pot of drama as a backdrop for their coming of age story.
I really liked this book, you guys. Jeanette Walls has a way with storytelling. I thought the characterizations were beautiful- I felt very attached to Bean and Liz! Given her background, I’m always struck by how Jeanette Walls portrays irresponsible adults. (If you haven’t read The Glass Castle, you SHOULD, but her parents were just bananas.) I find her adult characters, though often deeply flawed, are portrayed with compassion. They’re given layers and histories that explain their motivations. Sometimes they’re mentally ill, sometimes they’re careless, but above all, they’re usually holding things together the best they can. I appreciate the lack of cynicism. It’s rather uplifting.
Now, to be fair, this didn’t hit me with the intensity that The Glass Castle did. HOWEVER. I think that’s because this is a work of fiction, and The Glass Castle is a memoir of “OMG I cannot believe this happened to real people” proportions. Vibe-wise, I would compare this book to The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (probably because of characters named Bean) and Homecoming by Cynthia Voight (because of journeys and long lost relatives.) Give it a shot!
On an unrelated note, I’d like to show you this:
Why yes, that IS a photo of an emu looking hilarious and devious. It’s also COMPLETELY RELEVANT to this book. I just don’t know when I’m ever going to have an opportunity like this again so I am seizing the moment. EMU!!!
So, Bookworms. Tell me. Is there more ridiculous looking animal on the planet? What’s your favorite weird looking animal?