Beth Leiss


The Silver Star: A Novel

By Jeannette Walls

Scribner (Publisher)

To start off, I read this book in three days. This isn't a short book. It's just that good. Being a mom of a 4- and 6-year-old leaves less time to read than desired. Having said that, I was up until 1 a.m. two of those nights and plopping my girls in front of the television to provide more time to myself.

Accomplished author, Jeannette Walls became well known with her memoir, "The Glass Castle: A Memoir," depicting her childhood with an unsteady upbringing. I'm embarrassed to say that this is the first Jeannette Wells book I've laid my eyes on. Preferring fiction over memoir, I stayed away from it. She followed up with other works of fiction that were as well received.

"The Silver Star" follows the life of 12-year-old Jean, known as Bean, and teen sister, Liz. Living with their eccentric and free spirited mom in California, they are often fending for themselves and trying to dodge social services to stay together. The adventure starts when their mom, an aspiring musician, takes off for far too many days. They fear being found out, so they get small jobs and save money to take the train to their mother's estranged brother living in Virginia.

It's clear from the beginning, that Bean is precocious, smart and gutsy. She doesn't seem to feel sorry for herself for their circumstances and approaches each new challenge or tragedy with love, hope and guts. It makes the book more enjoyable, for those tough moments that mothers often have a hard time reading. After realizing author Walls had to grow up too soon in her own life, it makes a lot of sense.

Once in Virginia, the girls are met with kind relatives and people that have lost passion in their lives over the treatment from the mill that employs the lower to middle class. What follows is an event that gives this story much more depth and gumption. I enjoyed following Bean through her adventures and resolutions to the town menace that makes their hometown life dangerous.

Another part of the book addresses the closing of the second hometown high school that the African Americans attend, although integration happened years earlier. Forced to integrate, it was interesting how Walls presented many views on the events that followed. Many views I do not agree with, but it had me thinking about how I would feel if it was me having to endure what they endured.

I'll give this book four bees out of six, and I look forward to catching up on Jeannette Wall's previous work.

Beth Leiss was raised in Bismarck and has always enjoyed reading all kinds of books. Her dream is to pass her love of reading on to her girls as her mother passed it on to her.