Monday, July 15, 2013

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

A friend bought and lent me this  new novel by Jeannette Walls, author of Half Broke Horses  and her memoir, The Glass Castle and I read it in a few evenings.  I had not yet noticed it on the  best seller's lists but it is guaranteed to be there,  according to the NY Times review,  "  There’s a reason crazy mothers appear in fiction more often than semicolons. Write what you know, as they say.
Jeannette Walls established her bona fides in the unreliable parent department with her memoir, “The Glass Castle,” a case study in how to survive a chaotic childhood and get into Barnard."   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/books/review/the-silver-star-by-jeannette-walls.html
.  
Jeannette has another hit with this story of young sisters, Bean and Liz being raised by a not all there single mother, Charlotte, who keeps a step ahead or behind, depending on the day, of her demons and dreams  by moving constantly around the country dragging the girls behind her.   Charlotte is an aspiring singer, actress, songwriter so it is not happenstance that they are in California. But Charlotte,  who must have authored her own book on dysfunction,  has a bad habit of leaving the two girls alone to fend for themselves with a refrigerator  freezer stocked with chicken pot pies and  supposedly enough money for them to get by until her return.  This time though, Bean age  12 and Liz  age15  decide they can sit there no longer and wait for their disappearing Mom to return, so they leave a note and board a bus to Byer, Virginia, Mom's hometown.  There they plan to visit unexpectedly and unannounced Mom's widower brother,  their Uncle Tinsley Holladay and wait for word from Mom who is off pursuing a fabricated career. Bean is the narrator of this story although Liz has a way with words and  is fond of reading Edgar Allan Poe. But when school starts Bean adjusts easier than Liz who becomes withdrawn.   As they make their way around the formerly  prosperous but  now  run down mill town they determine they  will have to find work to supplement living with Uncle Tinsley.  Jerry Maddox, the  manager of the mill who ousted Uncle Tinsley when the mill was sold is the only person who hires them, and that provides another twist.  For the first time in her life Bean sees at  photo of her dead  father and learns about Charlie Wyatt through her Aunt Al and uncle Clarence, Charlie's brother and that  provides the title of the book, because Charlie was a war hero who was awarded  a silver star.  The girls have different fathers and Mom never said anything about Charlie.   Mom has contact with them now and then by phone but is now occupied with settling in  New York to make her career on Broadway, sometimes Mom calls sometimes she does not.  Bean also gains friendship of her cousin, Joe, All & Clarence's son despite chasing him from the orchard.    The story also  includes two emus, Eunice and Eugene, whom the girls acquire because their owner  decides he cannot keep them home on the farm.  One very amusing section is  the emu  pasture break out and their subsequent capture by lasso.   The girls are enrolled in school that fall in Byer which is just being fully integrated which provides more challenges.  

T  The descriptive writing and  compelling characters whose experiences relate a gamut of emotions as does the story. including  comical,  pathetic, tragic, heroic, and unfathomable.  The dark side of evil and how it is overcome triumphantly after all sums up the tale.  Wall's writing continues to shine as do her characters and phrases.... She has a website at the publisher with other information and where an excerpt of the  book is available.   http://pages.simonandschuster.com/jeannettewalls

.I laughed on  pg 43 after they are in Byer, "you only wave at people you know,,,,you must be from CA"   that scenario reminded me of Jerry's now dead mother who upon returning here to her hometown in MN when we all moved from CA after our retirement had an adjustment being friendly and was stuck in unfriendliness.  

Here's advice from Cuz Joe,  page 256...."you don't stop fighting just because you start losing "

his novel is 4 **** and one that reads quickly.