BKMT READING GUIDES

The Silver Star: A Novel
by Jeannette Walls

Published: 2013-06-11
Kindle Edition : 288 pages
26 members reading this now
69 clubs reading this now
12 members have read this book
From one of the bestselling memoirists of all time, a stunning and heartbreaking novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling.

It is 1970. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister Liz is fifteen when their ...

No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

From one of the bestselling memoirists of all time, a stunning and heartbreaking novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling.

It is 1970. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister Liz is fifteen when their artistic mother Charlotte, a woman “who flees every place she’s ever lived at the first sign of trouble,” takes off to “find herself.” She leaves her girls enough money for food to last a month or two. But when Bean gets home from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz board a bus from California to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying antebellum mansion that’s been in the family for generations.

An impetuous optimist, Bean discovers who her father was and learns many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Money is tight, so Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town, a big man who bullies workers, tenants, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister, inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, non-conformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz in the car with Maddox.

The author of The Glass Castle, hyper-alert to abuse of adult power, has written a gorgeous, riveting, heartbreaking novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love the world despite its flaws and injustices.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

Introduction

In The Silver Star, Jeannette Walls (author of The Glass Castle) has written a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world. When their eccentric mother disappears on a journey to “find herself,” twelve-year-old Bean Holladay and her older sister Liz are forced to trek cross country from California to Virginia in order to dodge child services. They decide to head to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in a decaying antebellum mansion and spends his days studying geology and his family history. Liz and Bean make a new life in Byler, and learn that the adult world is full of brokenness and unfairness—but also of great love, bravery, and beauty.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. It takes a certain amount of courage for two young girls to make their way cross country without their mother. Why are Liz and Bean able to take on such a journey?

2. Discuss Bean and Liz’s mother. What do her disappearances say about her ability to raise her children? Do you feel any sympathy for her and her need to leave Byler in the first place, and then leave it again to go to New York? Consider her fake boyfriend, her Hotel Madison breakdown, but also her quick return to Byler upon hearing of Liz and Bean’s trouble.

3. At the Byler Independence Day parade, Bean says, “Mom…had been telling us for years about everything wrong with America—the war, the pollution, the discrimination, the violence—but here were all these people, including Uncle Clarence, showing real pride in the flag and the country. Who was right?” (pg 86). This idea of opposing cultural viewpoints comes up numerous times during the girls’ stay in Virginia. How do Liz and Bean’s views differ from the more provincial townsfolk of Byler? Do the sisters stop seeing eye to eye? Is there a “right” way to look at things, or is much of opinion and belief based on context?

4. Can we trust Bean’s assessment of Jerry Maddox? Is there some truth to Maddox’s later accusation that Liz and Bean are wont to make up fantasies in a big game of “What’s Their Story?”

5. A number of adults advise Bean against seeing a lawyer after Maddox assaults Liz. What does this say about the adults of Byler? Are there ever grounds to let injustice stand? Would Liz and Bean have been better off forgetting the ordeal, or were they right to challenge Maddox’s abuse of power?

6. Discuss the Wyatt family and their involvement in the Holladays’ lives. What do Aunt Al, cousins Joe and Ruth, and Uncle Clarence offer Bean that she might not otherwise have? Consider especially Bean and Joe’s tire outing, as well as Clarence’s handling of Maddox’s demands at the house.

7. After Bean’s English class reads To Kill a Mockingbird, she notes, “For all of Miss Jarvis’s singing its praises as great literature, a lot of the kids in the class had real problems with the book…” (pg. 151). How do the students’ reactions reflect the racial tensions in Byler?

8. What changes do you see in Bean over the course of the story? Does she take Liz’s place as the strong, centered Holladay sister?

9. After Maddox is cleared of all charges, Bean says, “I felt completely confused, like the world had turned upside down, and we were living in a place where the guilty were innocent and the innocent were guilty. How are you supposed to behave in a world like that?” (pg 229). What do you think Bean and Liz learned about the adult world from the trial? How does one behave in a place where terrible things are allowed to happen without reprisal?

10. What do you think the emus represent for Liz?

11. When Bean starts waving at strangers, Liz notes, “You’ve gone native.” (pg 60). Have the girls become true Byler residents by the end of the novel? Is there still a bit of California in them? Or a bit of their mother?

12. Is there justice in the way Maddox is ultimately dealt with?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Much of The Silver Star is concerned with genealogy, from Uncle Tinsley’s documentation of the Holladays in Byler to Aunt Al filling in the blanks about Bean’s deceased father. Dig into your own family history. What sorts of interesting things do you know about your ancestors? Is there a way to find out more? If you can, share a token (like Charlie Wyatt’s silver star) with your book club.

2. “Bean” was so christened by Liz. Share with your book club any nicknames your siblings or other family members gave you.

3. One of the ways Liz and Bean seem able to deal with the very serious adult world around them is by playing games, whether it’s “What’s Their Story”? or Liz’s anagrams or spoonerisms. See how many spoonerisms you can come up with. If you’re feeling inspired, try to pen some emu-themed poetry.

4. Read Jeannette Walls’s memoir The Glass Castle, or the “true-life” novel about her grandmother, Half Broke Horses. How do Walls’s previous works compare to her fiction? Are the thematic concerns the same? Do the fictional families of The Silver Star seem as compelling as Walls’s real-world relatives?

5. Discuss moments in your life when someone was allowed to get away with a crime. How did it make you feel? Did the guilty person ever have to pay for their transgressions? - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Silver-Star/Jeannette-Walls/9781451661507/reading_group_guide#rgg

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

None
by AndieR (see profile) 01/28/15
None

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "The Silver Star is an easy read"by lizblair (see profile) 01/18/21

The Silver Star is an easy read. Walls words allow the flow of the story holding the reader to her pages. Liz and Bean are likable girls with grit. There are many things going on in the story, but it... (read more)

 
by jcgoodridge (see profile) 12/24/17

 
  "The silver Star"by Rosec (see profile) 03/20/17

Loved this book, did not see the fate of Jerry Maddox coming..

 
by mariesusanne (see profile) 01/25/17

seemed like a YA novel

 
  "Generated a great discussion"by cindywiser (see profile) 12/03/15

This is a book that I liked better after we had discussed it at our Book club. There were several sub-plots and themes and putting them all together made for a great book club meeting.

 
by lorilee (see profile) 04/02/15

 
by rebjacks (see profile) 02/07/15

 
  "The Silver Star"by AndieR (see profile) 01/28/15

Jeanette Walls does not seem to be able to write about anything else other than plucky daughters of dysfunctional mothers. After three books in this vein it's time for another subject.

 
  "The Silver Star: A Novel"by cbrouillard (see profile) 09/23/14

If you are familiar with the author's memoirs, you will see that it impacted this debut novel of hers, as the story was comparable to hers. Hopefully, there will be more works of fiction, as this was... (read more)

 
  "Worth the read"by LadyDiMurph (see profile) 03/21/14

Classic underdog story. Great opportunity to watch young girls go through a VERY challenging circumstance and to see how they get through it.

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...