Unlike Walls's two other books, which dealt with her own and her grandmother's lives, respectively, The Silver Star is straight-up fiction. But like those first two, this one is terribly addictive. Walls has the ability to write so transparently that you forget you're actually reading- sometimes, you feel like you're living the story. And while, at times, I've sighed at her lack of a more sophisticated approach to these narratives, I do appreciate her delicate but confident handling of her characters and their complicated lives.
Told from the point of view of "Bean" Holladay, a 12-year-old girl from California growing up in the 1970s, The Silver Star is about two sisters who search for stability and familial security in the face of their mother's frequent absences. When Charlotte Holladay takes off for several weeks to find her way as a singer/actress, Bean and Liz finally decide to make the cross-country trek to their ancestral home in Virginia. The aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends whom they find there all offer the sisters a sense of belonging and groundedness that their mother could never offer. Ultimately, though, Bean and Liz continue relying mostly on one another for emotional support, their bond helping them get through schoolyard harrassment, their mother's continued absence, and Liz's sexual assault by her employer.
In Virginia, Bean also learns the real story about her father and is given his Silver Star, earned for bravery in Korea. It is to this medal that she looks whenever she needs the inner strength to stand up for herself, or help Liz, or even resist the urge to complain about her mother's flightiness. Despite having never known her father, Bean uses his medal, photograph, and stories about him to solidify her own developing sense of self.
I'll leave you with a wish I have: that Jeannette Walls is hard at work at this very moment on her fourth book. Because...she has to. My mom and I insist. Because did I mention that Walls's books are ADDICTIVE?!