Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Story about A Boy

Jim the Boy, by Tony Earley, is a nearly flawless novel, quiet and not at all showy, the brief, simply told story of a boy growing up in North Carolina during The Depression. At the opening we read a letter about Jim's father's death, his mother's grief, and Jim's birth one week later. The story follows a year in the life of Jim, raised by his fragile mother and three kindly uncles on a farm in the small town of Aliceville.

Ickie (who read the novel first) pointed out that even though the narrative is told in the third person, it's still from Jim's perspective, and often the reader deduces subtleties that young Jim does not, such as when he suspects he'll be punished on his birthday although it's pretty obvious he won't be. I found the understated affection of Jim's uncles to be all the more poignant, who are able to communicate more love with a phrase like "I don't care what anyone says, Jim, you're all right," than with any manner of gushing. Although Jim is obviously a good-hearted, intelligent boy, what makes him special is the sense of caretakership everyone in the town (and a few from outside of it) exhibit over him. Although Jim misses his father, he is only vaguely aware of the charmed life he leads through belonging to everyone else.

As I mentioned earlier, the novel is brief and can easily be read in a day or two, and when Ickie completed it, he was rather speechless with emotion, insisting shortly thereafter that I read it immediately, and I'm grateful he did.

1 comment:

Jackamo said...

I have put it into my Goodreads queue. That sounds like a beautiful read.