The distance between truth and justice is often long and painful. Life is full of obstacles and challenges, parents flake out, and men occasionally take advantage of young girls.
These themes run through Jeanette Walls latest book, The Silver Star. Drawing from her own childhood as depicted in her semi-autobiographical The Glass Castle, Walls weaves a story of triumph and justice against the odds. Indeed, the familiar adage that says you don’t get to choose the family you’re born into springs to my mind.
The story centers on the endearing and dysfunctional Holloway family: consisting of an ‘artsy’ mother who is trying to find herself, smart and witty sister Liz, and Jean who goes by the name Bean because it rhymes with Jean.
Told in the narrative voice of the 12-year-old Bean, at times I found myself asking the question: “Do twelve-year-old girls really act and think this way?” Bean adores and looks up to her older sister Liz who is a responsible 15 years old. When their mother takes off, leaving them with a supply of chicken pot pies, the girls don’t worry. But as the days go by and the girls need to re-stock, the authorities catch on that they are on their own. The decision is made to travel from California to Virginia where their mom’s brother, Uncle Tinsley, lives. Leaving a cryptic note for their mother, the girls sneak away.
Its 1970 in rural Virginia: schools are being forced to integrate, the US is losing the Vietnam War, and Bean discovers how her father died, taking to heart his courageous stand for justice. The fact that their mom isn’t going to return anytime soon leads the girls to enroll in school. Liz determines they will need new school clothes and the only way to do so is by getting a job.
Younger Bean seems wiser than sister Liz when their employer, a well-known bully, tries to take advantage of the girls. As the story unfolds Bean laments as her sister fades into herself, the result of one evening when things went too far. Embolden by what Bean has discovered of her father’s courageous death, she refuses to let the matter drop and takes action.
I thoroughly enjoyed this heartwarming book in which justice and goodness prevail. After all, in the end the obstacles faced serve not to define us but to strengthen us if we allow them.