Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Blue Star

The Blue Star, by Tony Earley
$16.13 in the Hansisgreat Store
ISBN: 0316199079
This is the sequel to Jim the Boy, a novel which was popular a few years ago about a naive farm boy raised by his mother and uncles in rural North Carolina. It's set as American small towns are getting electric power, running water, and becoming industrialized.
In The Blue star, Jim is a senior in high school. It's the oldest story in the world: torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool. He's been involved romantically with a young lady named Norma, a childhood friend with whom he seems to be on the fast track to marriage.
Enter the lovely and seductive Chrissie, a half Cherokee girl from the other side of town. Just looking at her hair from his classroom desk is enough to give Jim dizzy spells as he falls head over heels for the chick everyone insists is all wrong for him.
Mostly, this is a novel about growing up and facing the often scary consequences of the adult world. Jim gives Chrissie a ride home as she experiences female complications, and quickly learns that there's a dark side to his raven haired beauty.
His best friend gets a teenage girl pregnant (yes, they did have unwed teenage mothers in those days), and he comes to terms with the death of a rival boy who's killed at 
the beginning of World War II.
The war is probably the most interesting theme in the book. We never see any military action in remote Aliceville, North Carolina, yet even here the fighting taints everything that happens to these simple, peaceful people.
Jim is completely adorable from beginning to end. He tells girls that he loves them without truly considering the consequences of what that implies. He means well, of course, he's just horny and not well schooled in such matters. He's also a bit of a hothead, but adolescence is emotional so this is to be expected.
Living on a small farm in the good old days is often said to have been a simpler life. The Blue Star is a novel of how such people in fact did have intricate lives full of complex problems. Still waters run deep. This book is quiet and unassuming, with surprising depth of emotion from characters who bear their suffering silently and do what they must.
Reading this book felt like a quiet summer evening when we were young, lying outdoors and looking up at the stars.

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