Jeannette Walls has a history of neglectful parents and a complicated lifestyle, both in her books and her personal life. The Silver Star follows the story of 12 and 14 year old Jean “Bean” and Liz Holladay after their mother goes away to pursue her (mostly imaginary) music career. Once they realize their mother isn’t coming back to their California home, they hop on a bus to head across country to stay in the very town their mother fled from many years ago, Byler, Virginia.
The story takes place in the 1970s, but when the girls get to their estranged Uncle Tinsley’s house in Byler, they take a step a few decades back. They’re staying in the family’s run-down mansion in the town where “the sixties never happened.” It’s the first year Byler High School is integrating, but its more than a story of racial tension. Injustice seem to ring from the pages of The Silver Star, as Liz and Bean are forced into more than a few grown-up situations.
When they start to work for Mr. Maddox, the same man who fired Uncle Tinsley from his own family’s mill, they find themselves challenging the “vile snake” head on. Liz and Bean have to handle grown up situations fast in the small, slow town.
The story is narrated by the spunky Bean Holladay, who loves her mother and sister unconditionally, but is starting to see things with a fresh perspective. She’s starting to find her roots and blend into the Byler community, while her sister Liz becomes more and more withdrawn. Bean as the narrator shines light on the story in a similar way To Kill A Mockingbird (which interestingly is brought up in The Silver Star more than once) does, showing the more innocent, naive side of the story.
The book was interesting and kept my attention the whole time. But I have to say it’s vastly over-shadowed by Jeannette Wall’s memoir, The Glass Castle, which chronicles her time with her own artistic, unique and fleeing mother. While The Glass Castle dived deep into the characters, in comparison The Silver Star just skims the surface.
Is it a good book? Yes. The last line left me with a smile on my face and the journey was a good one to stick along with. But The Silver Star struggles to shine brighter than a spectacular Glass Castle.
What did you think of The Silver Star?