The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"The Silver Star" is about two sisters, 15 year old Liz and 12 year old Bean. When Liz was three, she saved Bean's life by reminding their mother not to drive off with the baby carrier still on the roof of the car. It was also Liz, who has a penchant for rhyming, who gave Bean her nickname by calling her Jean-Bean, and soon, just Bean.
The story takes place in the early 70's, with the girls living in Lost Lake, California with their wannabe actress/musician mother who, unfortunately, is prone to disappearing at a whim and staying gone for days or weeks, leaving the girls to survive on chicken pot pies until she gets back. Eventually, the cops come poking around, and so the girls hop on a bus bound for Byler, Virginia, where their mother grew up and where they have an Uncle Tinsley who still lives at the family mansion, Mayfield.
The girls arrive and find out that the family owned the local mill for decades, and that the main street of town bears their name. However, widower Uncle Tinsley has allowed Mayfield to deteriorate, the family has lost the mill due to foreign competition, and their mother's horse-show, debutante childhood is just a memory.
When the girls refuse to wear their mother's old 1940s clothes to school that fall, and find themselves needing money to buy blue jeans, they look around town for work, but find only one offer, from control freak mill boss Mr. Maddox, as gofers. Thus, a whole chain of events is set in motion, which will test Bean and find out whether she can fight the formidable Mr. Maddox, save her sister, reconcile with their mother, and live up to the Silver Star medal that was her late father's.
I loved "The Silver Star", and were it not for an odd metaphorical sidetrack into a subplot about a couple of emus--yes, emus--I would have given it five stars. I loved the southern small town atmosphere and the girls the story centers around. Definitely recommended.
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