Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Lovely Complexity of an Ordinary Life

Back in March I wrote a glowing post about Jim the Boy, a simply and beautifully written novel by Tony Earley about a little boy growing up in a small town during the Great Depression. I'm happy to report that the second novel Earley wrote about Jim Glass is just as good as the first. Whereas the first novel follows Jim for a year when he was about 10 years old, The Blue Star records Jim's senior year in high school. Jim's widowed mother and funny, fatherly uncles are still present as is Earley's familiar, effortless prose. The plot is somewhat more mature due to Jim's age, and World War II propels events in the town. Jim's friendship with his insightful ex-girlfriend is as moving to me as his at-odds romance with a struggling half-Cherokee girl.

There's something about Earley's writing I find impossible to justly describe. His stories are sentimental without descending into melodrama or affectation. Your heart bleeds for each character; they live humble, ordinary lives, but Earley can infuse an ordinary life and the simplest of phrases with great poignance. After finishing the book last night, Ickie asked me about it (he read this one prior to me as well as the first), and I couldn't talk about a single scene without getting all choked up. If you're a fan of Southern literature or coming-of-age stories, you'll especially appreciate Jim the Boy and The Blue Star.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Thanks for this great review of Tony Earley's books. If you love southern lit, please eMail me at for a review copy of THE BIBLE SALESMAN by Clyde Edgerton, also a North Carolina novel.