Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Silver Star

Before we began talking about this book, I passed around a couple copies of Twenty Acres from a Match, which Library Administration would like us to read in January as part of their Nevada Reads program.  After browsing through, we agreed that we would make that our January book so now we only need eleven more titles to make up next years list.

Almost everyone of us has read The Glass Castle, Walls' first book and autobiography and thought this was Glass Castle light, a sanitized version of her own tortured youth.  Kathy said that she thinks sometimes publishers and agents nudge writers in their stable to write something if they haven't published in a while.  She wondered if that had happened with this book.

Mary liked that and said she thought it explained what happened to Pat Conroy when he wrote South of Broad which she felt was below par for him.  Joanne responded that while she couldn't remember the characters clearly, she fell in love the Charleston because of the book and took a life-changing trip there with a friend of hers.  A lively discussion ensued with Mary rescinding her sharp criticism of the book, saying that she has always felt that any book that changed lives is a valuable book.

Patricia thought Silver Star was a nice three-hour book and I called it a beach read.  Mary however thought it read like a young adult novel, and we all tended to agree with her.  Aside from Bean, the characters were a little thin, and Joanne said she thought Liz was inconsistent from the beginning through the progression of the book.  Claudia reminded us that the girls had no money.  When an opportunity to earn comes along, it can cloud ones judgement and in this case, it set the girls up for what came next.  I reread the blog post for last months book, and thought Mary's comment would serve well here:  "Mary said she was taken by how a single lie (Jim's) could disrupt so many lives for so many years."  Keeping their employment secret from Uncle Tinsley was a lie and they did it because they knew he would protest and they wanted the money.  If they had told him the truth this would have been a different story. 

We thought Charlotte was mentally ill and wondered if signs of it were also showing in Liz.  And speaking of mental illness, Angela said that Jerry Maddox was clearly a sociopath and because he had the power to hire and fire, had honed his bully skills.  Did everyone believe Clarence thought he shot a bear?  We decided they were so glad to be done with him that were willing to buy the story.  When they went out the backdoor with Dog and the shotgun however, several of us assumed that Dog was a goner. After all, Maddox had made Clarence give Joe a whipping.  So Maddox is gone, and even though it's a questionable ending, you have to be glad that for once the bad guy gets it.. Maureen said that if this is a young adult novel, it would be a good one for adolescent girls to read to know why they should never do what Liz did.

The time of 1970 and the small town setting were critical for the story to work.  We batted that around for a while and thought today forensics would shoot holes in the bear story and the girls would probably fall into the foster system.  We all enjoyed the book but agreed with the Publishers Weekly reviewer who wrote, "Readers of Walls's bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, my find this new novel too familiar to be entirely satisfying."

I found the Kelly Corrigan quote which was in the March post.  The term is Reader Response:  "I remember a lecture from one of my lit classes about a theory called “Reader Response,” which basically says: More often than not, it’s the readers—not the writers—who determine what a book means.  The idea is that readers don’t come blank to books.  Consciously and not, we bring all the biases that come with our nationality, gender, race, class, age.  Then you layer onto that the status of our health, employment, relationships, not to mention our particular relationship to each book—who gave it to us, were we read it, what books we’ve already read—and, as my professor put it, “That massive array of spices has as much to do with the flavor of the soup as whatever the cook intended.”