Of all the memoirs I've read in recent times, the one that affected me the most has to be 'The Glass Castle' by Jeannette Walls. I ran the gamut of emotions while reading it; amusement, sadness. But most of all, anger. Anger that two parents were more childish than their own children. While the parents were selfish and stupid and empty, their children assumed the adult roles. I couldn't believe that Jeannette and her siblings lived through such a life, but they listened and learned, and found success in their adult lives. That she was even able to admit to such a childhood astounded me...and she earned my respect. 'The Glass Castle' flew up the bestseller lists and stayed there for what seems like forever, and rightly so.
Her next book was not a continuation of her memoir. Instead, she gave to us the wonderful novel, 'Half Broke Horses', a fictional account of her maternal grandmother's life.
And now, we have been graced with another novel by the brilliant Ms. Walls. Set in 1970, 'The Silver Star' is the story of Bean and Liz, two sisters living with their delusional mother, a woman who leaves her daughters alone for days at a time so she can find success in the music business. But when one of her hiatuses stretches out for too long a time, the sisters begin to worry about being found alone and decide to travel to their mother's former childhood home in a small town in Virginia. They meet their uncle and he takes them in, providing a somewhat stable home life.
Bean Holladay is twelve and the narrator of the story. She is a feisty, optimistic girl, and because of her inquisitive nature, soon finds out who her father was when she meets his sister and her family. Her older sister, Liz, brilliant, studious, and a fierce nonconformist, is Bean's best friend. Deciding that they don't want their uncle to support them, they secretly take jobs as assistants to the mill's foreman, Jerry Maddox, a bully and a braggart. But when something happens to Liz, Bean takes it upon herself to help her sister.
And that's just the beginning of this well-told tale. I found hints of 'The Glass Castle' on almost every page, and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' certainly came to mind. 'The Silver Star' is a simply told story full of incredible insight and impact.
I'm counting down the months until I see it on the bestseller lists...and rightly so.