Author: Jeannette WallsSummary: 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 But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn.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. Jeannette Walls, supremely alert to abuse of adult power, 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. ~powells.com
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Bottom Line: Coming of age story for adults
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Review: The Silver Star is a interesting look at life in a small town during the 1970s. Bean and Liz venture to Byler, Virginia when there mom disappears for a few days. Where there mom, Charlotte, hated and couldn't wait to leave Byler, the girls adapt fairly easily to the slow ways of Byler. Sure, Uncle Tinsley is a recluse and a hoarder but at least he's trying to do right by the girls.
Bean and Liz want to do right by him as well so even though he tells them not to get jobs, they go around town until they find someone who hires them. That person is Jerry Maddox and well you already know he's not a good person. Since the girls are new in town they don't understand the history between their Uncle and Jerry but they do know enough to hide it from their Uncle.
My favorite part of the story was how Bean learned about her dad and bonded with that side of her family. I also loved that Uncle Tinsley encouraged it for her. It seems like if Charlotte had been there, she would have had a big problem with it. I adored how her Aunt Al just accepted her in immediately and she found a kindred spirit with Joe. Bean found where she belonged.
Ms. Walls does a good job of bringing social commentary into the book without it overshadowing the journey of the girls. While the girls were adapting to their changes, the US was going through it's own changes. I think that she captured that parallel extremely well.
I think the Jerry Maddox storyline was pretty easy to spot coming but I liked the way it helped to shape Liz. I like how Bean was there for her every step of the way. Even if some of her steps were missteps.
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