The Blue Star: A Novel

( 7 )

Overview

Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two. Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the ...

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The Blue Star: A Novel

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Overview

Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two. Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven, and gives a young man's emotions a grown man's gravity. With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for thousands of readers, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time—making it again even realer than our own day. This is a timeless and moving story of discovery, loss and growing up, proving why Tony Earley's writing "radiates with a largeness of heart" (Esquire).

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Editorial Reviews

Scott Turow
I galloped through the novel and relished every page…Earley knows Jim and his world with a sureness and an intimacy that always mark the most involving fiction…Earley's simple prose is always informed by Jim's good heart. Jim, the McBrides and Aliceville so thoroughly fulfill our era's longings for the news of good lives lived by faith in one another that The Blue Star, like its hero, is irresistible. If there is a third installment, I will be in line at the bookstore when they open up the boxes.
—The New York Times
Ron Charles
The novel builds slowly to…more serious themes—probably too slowly…[The] late chapters are as good as anything Earley has ever written—unashamedly sweet and pure and sad—but I'm worried that only patient readers will hang on to reap these rewards. That would be too bad because by the end I was enthralled again, and the novel left me eager for the story of Jim's adventures in World War II.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The small dramas of teenage love get caught in the crosswinds of a war in this sequel to the 2001 bestseller Jim the Boy. It's late summer 1941, and Jim Glass, now a high school senior, has an earnest, unshakable passion for classmate Chrissie Steppe. But as straightforward as his feelings are, the circumstances of his nascent romance are complex: Chrissie's family is indebted to their landlord, whose sailor son Bucky claimed Chrissie as his girl before shipping out to serve on the USS Californiaat Pearl Harbor. Throughout Jim's fraught final year at school, he relies on the advice of his uncles, but after Pearl Harbor is bombed, they can't protect him from the war's toll. Questions of patriotism, sexuality and poverty weave their way into a narrative that's deceptive in its simplicity: the growing pains that Jim and his friends experience pack a startling emotional punch. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Beautifully told, this old-fashioned love story is the kind of fiction readers have come to expect from Earley after his luminous, warmhearted first novel, Jim the Boy. Here readers reencounter the main character of that novel and the sleepy rural community in North Carolina where he lives. Jim is now a senior in high school who finds himself on the verge of adulthood and attracted to a young woman of Cherokee descent named Chrissie Steppe. Their relationship blossoms from infatuation to love, and Earley handles this developing romance with great tenderness and emotional warmth. The novel is set during the ominous early years of World War II, and foreboding historical events infuse Jim and Chrissie's situation with considerable poignancy and pathos. Earley also brings to life a very appealing rural community, conjuring up a portrait of a bygone America where people conducted themselves with dignity and devoted themselves to simple virtues and values. Enthusiastically recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/07.]
—Patrick Sullivan

Kirkus Reviews
In this sequel to the acclaimed Jim the Boy (2000), Jim Glass-grown up from ten to 17 but still dewy-eyed-falls hard for a classmate and, after Pearl Harbor, enlists in the army. Earley returns both to Aliceville, the North Carolina mountain hamlet where Jim the Boy was set, and to nostalgia. Jim, a high-school senior, falls hard for classmate Chrissie Steppe, in whose black hair he glimpses-Lord help the teen in love-"infinite depth." But the larger world encroaches, or at least looms. There's the specter of race: Chrissie's half-Cherokee. There's the uncomfortable fact that she's unavailable; she's affianced, against her will, to Bucky Bucklaw, son of the people on whose land Chrissie and her mother are tenants. Bucky has joined the navy, and when he's martyred at Pearl Harbor and comes home simultaneously a dead body and an undying hero, Jim's feeling for Chrissie goes from childlike puppy love (especially in a tender role-playing scene early on) to something much more trouble-fraught. Plot devices creak, and Earley shrinks from exploring the racial/ethnic theme, but he manages, with disarming sincerity, to steer through the narrow strait between Treacle and Hokum. Jim is no one-note saint, but Earley persuades us of a genuine decency in him. A sweet-tempered, mostly successful sequel for those who like their fiction sepia-toned.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316199070
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 3/10/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 791,599
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Earley is the author of four books: Here We Are in Paradise, a collection of stories; the novel Jim the Boy; the personal essay collection Somehow Form a Family; and The Blue Star, a novel forthcoming in Spring, 2008. A winner of a National Magazine Award for fiction, he was named one of the twenty best writers of his generation by both Granta, in 1996, and The New Yorker in 1999. His fiction and/or nonfiction have appeared in Harper's, Esquire, The New Yorker, The Oxford American, The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, New Stories from the South and many other magazines and anthologies. He is a native of western North Carolina and a graduate of Warren Wilson College and The University of Alabama. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and daughter, where he is the Samuel Milton Fleming Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.

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Read an Excerpt


The Blue Star

By Tony Earley Little, Brown and Company
Copyright © 2008
Tony Earley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-316-19907-0


Chapter One At the Top

BECAUSE THEY were seniors and had earned the right, Jim and his buddies stood on the small landing at the top of the school steps, squarely in front of the red double doors. Every student entering the building, boy or girl, had to go around them to get inside. The boys pretended not to notice that they were in everyone else's way, and moved aside only when a teacher climbed the stairs. They had ruled Aliceville School for less than a month but now held this high ground more or less comfortably. The first few days of school, Jim had halfway expected some older boys to come along and tell them to get lost, but during the preceding three weeks, he had gradually come to appreciate that there were no older boys. He and his friends were it.

The school overlooked the town from atop a steep hill. Jim tilted his face slightly into the clear sunlight and tenderly considered the world below him. At the foot of the hill the houses and barns and sheds of Aliceville lay scattered around the town's small tangle of streets. Near the center of town the uncles' three tall houses stood shoulder to shoulder. (Jim lived with his mother and her oldest brother, Uncle Zeno, in the middle house. Uncle Coran and Uncle Al, who were twins, lived on either side.) Beyond the town itself, across the railroad track, the uncles' corn and cotton crops filled the sandy bottoms all the way to their arable edges; beyond the fields the neatly tended rows unraveled into the thick gnarl of woods through which the river snaked. The corn, still richly green, stood taller than any man, and the dark cotton rows were speckled with dots of bright, emerging white. West of town the engine smoke of an approaching train climbed into the sky.

Jim could not see Uncle Zeno or Uncle Al in the fields, nor Uncle Coran in the store, but he knew they were there, the same way he knew that when the time came to pick cotton they would not ask him to skip school to help. Just as he wondered what his mother was doing, Mama came out the front door of Uncle Zeno's house with a bucket and dipper and began watering the chrysanthemums blooming in the pots on the porch steps. She glanced at the orange bus from Lynn's Mountain as it turned off the state highway and ground its way up the pitched drive. Jim was glad she didn't look all the way up the hill toward the school. Had she seen him and waved, he not only would have been embarrassed, but he would also have been tempted to weep with some mysterious, nostalgic joy. The warm sunlight on his face seemed to remind him of something - but he couldn't explain what - and some vague but pleasant longing filled his chest. Already he could sense the end of these good days rapidly approaching, like a mail train filled with unexpected news.

"Hey, Jim," Buster Burnette said, "there's your mama."

Dennis Deane squinted as he looked down the hill. "What's she doing?"

"Daggum, Dennis Deane," Jim said. "You can't see a lick, can you?"

"I don't need to see," Dennis Deane said. "I've got an extra eyeball."

Everybody grinned, but nobody said anything. They all knew better.

Dennis Deane batted his eyes innocently. "Ain't you going to ask me where it is?"

Jim shook his head. "Ain't no way."

"Cowards," Dennis Deane sniffed. "The whole bunch of you." He cleared his throat. "Now, where was I?"

"The secrets of women," said Larry Lawter.

"Oh, yeah. Like I said, I know the secrets of women. I can make any female I want to fall in love with me."

"Bull," Buster said.

"I'm telling you," Dennis Deane said. "I'm the Large Possum. The King of the Squirrels."

"You're a nut is what you are," said Jim.

"The Head Nut," Dennis Deane said. "Twice as much for a nickel. Try me just once and you'll know why."

The bus grumbled to a stop at the bottom of the steps. The doors swung open and the students from Lynn's Mountain climbed off and curled around the front of the bus. In the distance the train announced itself at the state highway crossing with a long blast from its whistle. Jim wondered about the train because it was not one that was regularly scheduled. Like everyone else who lived in Aliceville, Jim knew the timetables of the trains and noted when they passed, even in his sleep.

"Prove it," Larry said. "What you said about women." He jerked his head toward the bus. "How about one of these mountain girls?"

"How about her?" Buster said, nodding at a freshman girl with green, shrewd-looking eyes who came around the front of the bus with her books clutched closely to her chest. A pack of third- and fourth-grade boys chattered by her and up the steps into the building. The girl did not look at the seniors on the landing, but Jim could tell she knew they were there.

Dennis Deane squinted again. "Who is it?" he asked. "What's her name?"

"Ellie," Buster said. "Ellie something."

"Okay," Dennis Deane said. "Ellie something. Watch and learn, boys."

When the girl reached the landing, Dennis Deane said, "Hey, Ellie Something." When she looked up, he closed his eyes and contorted his face into an enormous pucker. "Kiss me," he said.

Jim winced when he saw the stricken look on Ellie's face and stepped out of the way to aid her escape. She jerked open one of the doors and ran inside.

"You shouldn't have done that, Dennis Deane," he said, although, despite his better judgment, he laughed along with everybody else.

"I knew it wouldn't work," Buster said.

"Of course it worked," said Dennis Deane. "Ellie Something is now in love with me, although, bless her little heart, she would never, ever admit it. She's just too shy."

Otis Shehan and Horace Gentine climbed the steps and joined the group. The mountain boys were also seniors. "Howdy, men," Horace said. "How's it hanging?"

"Try it on her," Larry said, nodding toward Christine Steppe.

No, don't, Jim thought, but he didn't say anything. As far as Jim was concerned, watching Chrissie Steppe climb the stairway was the best part of the day. And because this information seemed valuable to him in some way he could not name, he had never told the other guys.

"Try what on her?" Otis asked. "I wouldn't try anything on her. That's Bucky Bucklaw's girl."

"I don't care if it's Franklin D. Roosevelt's girl," Dennis Deane said. "Hey. Chrissie Steppe. Kiss me." He squeezed his eyes shut and puckered up.

Chrissie stopped and her large, dark eyes blinked slowly as she considered Dennis Deane. Her black hair reached almost to her waist. She shifted her books to her left arm.

Jim noticed that her right hand was balled into a dangerous-looking fist. "Hey, whoa," he said, stepping in front of her. "Don't hit him."

Dennis Deane flinched. "Hit me?" he said, without opening his eyes. "Is somebody about to hit me?"

Chrissie's shoulders rose and fell with her breathing. "I'm about to beat you all over this schoolyard, you little worm," she said. "I will not be talked to that way."

Dennis Deane covered his head with his arms and whimpered, "Don't hurt me, you big, strong, she-girl."

"He didn't mean anything by it," said Jim. "He's just a little, well, insane, is what he is."

"I've got an extra eyeball," Dennis Deane said. "Do you want me to show it to you?"

Chrissie turned away from Dennis Deane and stared levelly at Jim with what he took to be an expression of slight disappointment. "Are you his friend?" she asked.

"Sort of, I guess," he said. "More like his guardian. Something like that."

Jim caught a slight whiff of vanilla and wished she would step even closer. He felt himself beginning to smile and thought, wildly, We're almost close enough to kiss.

Chrissie did not smile back, but she opened her fist. "Well. You tell your little friend that I will not stand for anyone talking to me like that. Ever. You tell him that if he talks to me that way again, I will beat him like a borrowed mule."

"Hee-haw," Dennis Deane said from behind Jim.

"Dennis Deane," Jim warned over his shoulder. "Shut up."

"I mean it, Jim Glass," Chrissie said.

"I know you do," said Jim.

"You tell him."

"I will."

Chrissie nodded once, turned on her heel, and pulled open the door. Then she was gone. Nobody laughed, although Jim wanted to. He felt wonderfully, inexplicably happy.

Dennis Deane stepped out from behind Jim and made a show of adjusting his shirt collar. He blew into his palm, checking his breath.

"Well," he said. "She loves me. Write it down in the big book, boys. Write it down."

"She was going to knock you out," Larry said.

"I should have let her hit you," Jim said.

"Don't mess around with that girl," said Otis. "I'm serious. If she doesn't beat your ass, then Bucky will when he gets home on leave."

"Bucky Bucklaw," Dennis Deane scoffed. "How am I supposed to be afraid of somebody with a name that stupid?"

Larry pointed down the hill at the long passenger train drawing a thick silver line through town. "Hey, look at that," he said.

The windows of the coaches were open, and men in uniforms, their shirtsleeves rolled up, were hanging out most of them. Soldiers. A whole trainload of them. Jim wondered what they saw when they looked at Aliceville, if anything would make an impression worth remembering; he wondered where they were going.

"Troop train," he said.

"What?" Dennis Deane said. "Has the train got soldiers on it?"

The bell rang. The boys picked up their books.

"You're blind as a mole," Jim said.

"I don't need to see," said Dennis Deane. "I've got an extra eyeball."

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Blue Star by Tony Earley Copyright © 2008 by Tony Earley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 18, 2009

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    The Blue Star - enough romance, tragedy and action to make a wholly satisfying read!

    A portrait of life in America on the eve of World War II, The Blue Star tells the story of Jim Glass Jr during his last year of high school. From among the well-to-do families in his small town, Jim has recently broken up with Norma Harris. Jim finds himself in the awkward position of being fascinated by his friend Bucky's girl friend Chrissie Steppe. But his friend, Bucky Bucklaw Jr. is in the Navy, surely courting Chrissie Steppe would be out of bounds.

    When Jim digs deeper into the relationship between Chrissie Steppe and Bucky Bucklaw, he learns more than he'd bargained for about the Steppes and even his own family.

    Review:

    There is so much more to The Blue Star than Jim's attraction to Chrissie Steppe, which is what makes The Blue Star such an interesting and satisfying read. You don't have to have read the earlier book Jim The Boy to appreciate The Blue Star. The characters are fully fleshed out. Each individual struggle adds to the tension and coherence of the novel. There is enough romance, tragedy and action to make The Blue Star hard to categorize and easy to enjoy.

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  • Posted August 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I can only hope there is a 3rd.

    I have to say it took me a little while to get into this book but when I did I found it worth it even though this is the type of book that I wouldn't have normally picked out for myself to read. I am glad, however, that this book was sent to me because I really did have a great experience reading it.

    The time frame is on the eve of World War II and Jim is now a senior in High School. Jim has broken up with his long time girlfriend Norma, and has become smitten with a half Indian girl named Chrissie. The problem with this is the book takes place in Aliceville, North Carolina circa 1941 so racism and backwards thinking runs deep. Also, Chrissie's grandparent's also work and live on a prominent family's property which their son has laid claim to Chrissie to be his fiance, no matter how much Chrissie disagrees with it. Jim, through twists and turns in the plot line, and family secrets revealed, pursues Chrissie, having fallen in love with her.

    The sexist, bigoted, and downright backward way of the characters is sometimes hard to see past or even relate to when you are 31 years old and have no clue on how things really were back then but it's also interesting if you find that period in American history something you wish to relive or learn about. Another refreshing thing about this book is it's a book that if my 13 year old would pick up I honestly wouldn't have any problems with her reading but it's not a young adult book by any stretch of the means. I'd recommend this book to a few members of my family and friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Sequel To "Jim The Boy"

    As much as I loved Jim The Boy, Blue Star was even more memorable and a treasured addition to my private library. It screams for another sequel (which I am sure Tony Earley will supply) and I will impatiently await its publication.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A good reading experience

    In 1941 in Aliceville, North Carolina seventeen year old high school senior Jim Glass loves fellow student Chrissie Steppe, but can do little about his attraction. Chrissie has a boyfriend, Jim¿s buddy Arthur ¿Bucky¿ Bucklaw who joined the navy complicating matters for Jim is her family owes his family a lot of money. Still he vows to one day make Chrissie his girlfriend.-------------- He turns to his paternal models for advice his Uncles Coran and Zeno coach Jim on winning the heart of a girl. However, everything abruptly changes December 7, 1941 in which his quest seems childish when compared to Bucky being stationed on the USS California which was hit by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. For that matter Jim, like many of his peers, wonders if staying in school to play baseball until he graduates is more important than fighting for his country immediately.----------------- Seven years have passed since the adventures of JIM THE BOY (not read) as he has matured from a precocious ten yea old to a still growing up high school student in love when WWII intercedes. Patriotism becomes a key theme as an odd triangle forms. Readers will appreciate the true sacrifice (not the DC pandering) the military makes to serve. However, it is the impact on Jim and his high school peers who are of an age to join and feel the need to do so that makes the sequel a strong look at America going to war.----------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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