The Silver Star

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

3 of 9
The Silver Star
288 pages; Scribner
Twelve-year-old "Bean" Holladay and her older sister, Liz, aren't immediately concerned when their mother abandons them to "make some time and space for find the magic again"; she's done this before—to chase a man, or her dream of being a singer. But when she doesn't return after two weeks, the girls, who've been subsisting on a diet of chicken potpies, revert to plan B—buying bus tickets from California to their mother's hometown in Virginia—to avoid being taken away by social services. Their intention is to stay with their uncle Tinsley, whom they haven't seen since they were small, and though their arrival on his doorstep takes him by surprise, he welcomes them into the family's long-neglected antebellum mansion, where he lives alone amid old newspapers, faded carpets and peeling wallpaper.

In her latest novel, The Silver Star (Scribner), Jeannette Walls transports us with her powerful storytelling into the close-knit world of these fiercely protective sisters who've come to Byler in 1970, just as racial and economic issues threaten the town's cozy stability. Mouthy Bean easily adjusts to her new surroundings, while Liz becomes increasingly withdrawn. An attack on Liz leads the sisters to team up against a man who will do anything to safeguard his reputation, and finally prompts their mother's return. Through heart-wrenching prose, Walls delves into the way children must sometimes protect themselves against the bad behavior of the adults around them, a theme she first mined in her memoir, The Glass Castle. Using Bean's expertly crafted, naively stubborn voice, Walls contemplates the extraordinary bravery needed to confront real-life demons in a world where the hardest thing to do may be to not run away. 
— Abbe Wright