The Monday Book: THE SILVER STAR by Jeanette Walls

Practically a household name by now, Jeanette Walls won acclaim for her memoir The Glass Castle. Her Appalachian family’s dysfunctional story resonated with many.


The Silver Star is fiction, but you see some of the same character shapes or tropes. Two sisters abandoned by a bi-polar mom head across the country to find refuge with their uncle, who is a reclusive hoarder. They learn a lot of secrets about their respective fathers, and about mom’s history in the family.

But they learn harder lessons as well, about what it means to trust someone in authority and how to cope with self-esteem versus whether the law values you as a human being or not. On the surface the story is quite straightforward, but underneath so much of what isn’t said haunts the reader. It’s that characteristic Walls style: here’s what happened, now you decide what it means.

The ending is perhaps (small spoiler alert) a tiny bit more satisfying than real life sometimes allows. But it’s fiction so we should get SOME grace out of dysfunction. I enjoyed the book, and honestly it bordered on YA fiction. A coming of age story that involves a little more violence than parents might like, but a whole lot less than most actually face. Set before the 2000s, it also has a lovely nostalgia for those who attended school in the ’70s and ’80s. If some of the characters are swiftly drawn, the main ones are people we’ve known, went to school with, look up now and again on Facebook. Two thumbs up.

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