By Jeannette Walls
Former MSNBC.com columnist Jeannette Walls made her name as a memoirist with The Glass Castle (**** SELECTION July/Aug 2005), a story of great hardship and even greater courage; a novel fictionalizing the life her grandmother, Half Broke Horses (**** Jan/Feb 2010), followed. She lives in Virginia.
THE STORY: Twelve-year-old Jean "Bean" Holladay and her teenage sister Liz have grown up largely neglected by their creative, scatterbrained mother Charlotte. When Charlotte abandons her daughters in vague pursuit of an artistic career, Bean and Liz brave the journey from California to Virginia to live with relatives they've never met. What they find in the town of Byler is a humble home with an endearing family, but they also face a new school and a new job where not everyone means well. Working for their own survival, the sisters rely on each other for strength to face the sometimes violent injustices of a country community weathering the turbulent 1970s.
Scribner. 269 pages. $26. ISBN: 9781451661507
USA Today ****
"A lovely, moving novel with an appealing narrator. ... It reads, broadly, as a breezier companion to The Glass Castle." CARMELA CIURARU
New York Times ***
"Walls's new novel ... is systematically built, each brick put in place for a reason. ... This is a book in which nothing is complicated, good and bad are polar opposites and life never fails to make sense, in a hokey and homespun way." JANET MASLIN
Cleveland Plain Dealer ***
"Bean's voice ... and the strong sense of place hold the book together, reminding me of some of my favorite, feisty heroines in middle-grade fiction. ... Unfortunately, most minor characters are thin to transparent, and the many strands of plot get tied up awfully neatly." TRICIA SPRINGSTUBB