The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Author
Jeannette Walls' earlier memoir The Glass Castle is a fascinating but
heartbreaking account of the joys and struggles of her rootless and sometimes
homeless childhood. She well knows what it is like to be the daughter of a
dysfunctional mother, and her personal history gives authenticity to the two
sisters who are the main characters in The Silver Star. Teenage Liz and
tween "Bean" must fend for themselves when their single mother leaves
to chase her dream of being a famous singer and to “make some time and space” for
herself.

Set in the
1970s, the novel begins in California, but when parental abandonment threatens
to bring the cops to their house, the girls and their pet turtle Fido hop a
cross-country bus to Virginia to see their widowed Uncle Tinsley (Spoiler
Alert: Fido should not have boarded that bus). Tinsley is taken aback by the visit
from these sisters with whom he has had no relationship to date. He is taken
aback further when he discovers that their mother is not with them and that they
expect to stay with him for an unknown period of time. 

Afraid that
they might mess up the hoarded junk in his house, Tinsley has the girls sleep in
the barn their first night.  In no time,
however, they  move into the big old weather-beaten
house, and (predictably) their uncle becomes a father figure to them.

As the girls
adapt to life in their new town, their mother appears. But old habits die hard,
and soon the struggling singer is off to try to make it big in New York City.
Just like old times, she vanishes for weeks on end. But unlike old times, Bean,
who was taken care of by Liz early on in the book, comes into her own and
becomes the protector of her big sister when something bad happens to her.
Essentially this is a coming of age story about children who learn to act more grown
up than the grown-ups who surround them.

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