From one of the best-selling memoirists of all time, a stunning and heartbreaking novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world - a triumph of imagination and storytelling.
It is 1970. "Bean" Holladay is 12 and her sister, Liz, is 15 when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who flees every place she’s ever lived at the first sign of trouble," takes off to find herself." She leaves her girls enough money for food to last a month or two. But when Bean gets home from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz board a bus from California to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying antebellum mansion that’s been in the family for generations.
An impetuous optimist, Bean discovers who her father was and learns many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, so Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, a big man who bullies workers, tenants, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister, inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, non-conformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn.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 in the car with Maddox.
The author of The Glass Castle, hyper-alert to abuse of adult power, has written a gorgeous, riveting, heartbreaking novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love the world despite its flaws and injustices.
©2013 Jeannette Walls (P)2013 Simon & Schuster
I wanted to love this book. I treasured Glass Castles and have recommended it to a dozen people. I was very excited that she came out with a fictional story.
All the characters, landscape, and situations were set up for this to be a great book. I kept waiting for it to get started. With each new situation, or each new person met, I thought "oh,ok, this is going to be the meat of the story," yet it never happened. Then I thought, "that's ok, this is just a 'slice-of-life' story," but for a successful story like that, you need to know the character enough to care what they had for breakfast, and the depth just wasn't there in this book.
There were so many really great characters in this story that Walls gave glimpses of. The older sister, the uncle, the cousin, and her black girlfriend were all promising, and interesting, and I wanted to know more about them, but Walls just scratches the surface and leaves you wanting more. Unfortunately, I was left wanting on all of the characters and possible story lines, which makes this story feel like an empty shell.
I still gave it three stars because it is promising and because I did love the characters even from a distance. The complexity of the older sister and the way she dealt with heartache made me want to read an entire novel just about her. Because the book is overall so shallow it ends up being a story with dark tendencies told with a light touch, which isn't a completely terrible thing.
Silver Star was a comfy read with a similar feel to Walls' Glass Castle, with a little less luster. Again there is the ditzy egocentric mother and the self-reliant young children, and Walls own southern-sweet voice giving life to young Bean and her sister Liz. Walls' brand of story telling is engaging and colorful, which makes for a pleasant read, and you can't help but find these girls and their quirky uncle endearing. But this is some tough territory in spite of its cuteness and "aww" moments. You are reading about child neglect and abuse wrapped up in a cute pretty package, so be prepared for a possible subconscious squirm ( I'm pretty sure Nancy G would back me up on this one--so back off Floyd). There are a lot of borrowed elements from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird: Bean and Scout, an ominous man in town, a sexual assault, a courtroom scene, even birds--emus not mockingbirds, but that is where the similarities end. (Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interrestings, also noted these similarities in her NPR review.)
There were times Wall's chipper voice seemed incongruent with the events, for example: the girls, alone on a cross country bus, after fleeing the child welfare agents, finally escape a pervert that has been stalking them the entire trip. The passengers, who have silently observed this drama, sit back, applaud, then laugh at the site of the pervert stamping his feet and wringing his hands in the dust of the departing bus...I could hear the smile in Wall's voice, but couldn't connect to any humor, and if I had the courage (I'm going to get slaughtered here), I'd probably give this a 2 1/2 * rating overall. Even though Silver Star isn't as moving as Glass Castle, or as forgiving in its portrayal of a narcissistic, absentee mother, fans of Walls will probably appreciate the story and find it an entertaining, worthwhile listen. This was just an ok read for me, and likely due to my own frame of reference.
I have always loved to read, and now I really enjoy listening to my books as well!!
I really had high hopes for this novel since Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle is one of my all-time favorite books. But I was disappointed with this one. The story was quite elementary—I really feel the target audience may have been young teens, but it was not marketed that way.
If you haven’t read or listened to The Glass Castle yet, that is the book I am happy to recommend—
Hello! I am someone that loves to read. I love a story with strong, intelligent characters that have a strong will to fight and survive.
I did like this book but I loved Jeanette Walls' other books. This book was her first book of fiction and I felt the story was a little lacking. I can't really say why. It just left me wanting more. I had really high expectations for this book and it left me a little disappointed.
Chicago & Indiana Scientist/Gardener/Hiker
No--the plot is too predictable in many important regards.
I have read all of her other books--this is the first one to which I did not give 5 stars, but I am not sure I would try her next book after this disappointment.
I have read the two other books written by Jeanette Walls and was looking forward to this work of fiction. I could not have been more disappointed. The story and character development was lacking. The story mirrors many others about small towns and the stereotypes of its residents ("lint heads", old southern money, racial unrest...). Her other work was interesting perhaps because it was true and therefore was captivating.
In her next book, I hope she spends more time developing the characters and a more engaging story line. Good luck!
Bend Not Break
voice is very annoying
this is geared towards maybe a 13 year old demographic
very disappointed, enjoyed her first book
I like the story but has very similar characters from The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses. I like Wells' writing style, and how a story is told but the performance lacked luster, passion, and gusto. I was waiting for her to scream as the character would scream, or argue in the same tone the character would argue in, but it was just very monotone.
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