Scribner|June 11, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-6150-7
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 the girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and see 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, a 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 But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn.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.
Twelve-year-old, Bean and fifteen-year-old, Liz live in Lost Lake, a little town in the Colorado Desert of Southern California where they’ve lived for the past four months. Their mother, Charlotte had been gone now for four days off in Los Angeles auditioning for a job as a back-up singer. The girls were used to being on their own as their mother often was away, her career took up a sizable amount of her time. Liz being the older of the two girls was in charge but Bean didn’t mind one bit as she was the type of girl who didn’t want to be babied.
When their mother was away, all they ever ate was chicken pot pies. Bean didn’t mind because she loved the difference between the crusty crust on the outside and the warm goopy filling on the inside. And, Liz said if you had a glass of milk with one then you were getting all four food groups – meat, vegetables, grain, and dairy.
Their mother finally arrived home telling the girl she met a man named, Mark Parker who told her she never got any jobs as a back-up singer because her voice was so distinctive that she was upstaging the stars. At age thirty-six she had never yet had a gig or made a recording, but Mark said he was going to “jump-start” her career. Since she’d never had a job, they lived on her inheritance but they were on a tight budget as the money was running low. However, it didn’t take long for, Bean to figure out that her mother way lying. She had made up the whole Mark Parker scenario and when Bean confronted her, Charlotte began yelling and spewing all sorts of hurtful comments, including telling, Bean that she was sorry she’d ever had her, that she was a mistake. She then picked up her purse and sped away in her car.
The girls had been waiting for, Charlotte to return but she didn’t, instead they received a letter in the mail containing two-hundred dollars and a note telling them she needed “space” for herself. After two weeks money was running short so Liz did some babysitting and Bean delivered a newspaper. They continued to buy their chicken pot pies.
Liz and Bean began to worry about CPS or some other agency getting involved and putting them in foster care. Charlotte had originally come from a small town in Virginia called, Byler where her father had owned a cotton mill. Their Mom’s brother, Uncle Tinsley still lived in Byler in a big old house called, Mayfield.
One day, Bean arrived home from school to find cop cars outside the house and a cop looking through the window. She turned around and ran all the way to Liz’s high school and waited for her to come out. Liz decided they had better head to Virginia right away. She always carried their money in the lining of her shoe so the two girls ran off to the bus depot and bought two cross-country tickets. They were on their way and on the adventure of their lives.
The Silver Star, pulled me in from the very first page and I didn’t quit until I’d turned the last. It was a fast-paced, easy to read story that kept my attention through every single word. I read the book in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down. The only negative I have about this book is that it ended way too abruptly. I was reading along, turned the page to read more but there wasn’t anymore, it was the end of the story. I felt as though the book didn’t end properly. Other than that, I would highly recommend this book to anyone, Jeannette Walls certainly has a very creative imagination and writes an entertaining novel.