Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Jim the Boy ~ by Tony Earley, 2000

Tony Earley said in an interview, "I never write until I have the first sentence and the first sentence never changes." Here's the first sentence in Jim the Boy:
During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim's age grew an extra digit."
Two digits, a one plus a zero. It is now 1934, and today is his tenth birthday. Jim, whose father died a week before he was born, lives with his mother and three uncles in the little town of Aliceville, North Carolina. This is a gentle book, with no action-packed car chases, no murder mysteries, nothing flashy. Well, unless you count the night electricity came to Aliceville and the new brightness pushed away the darkness and made the stars seem to fade. Excitement means things like a ferris wheel, the opening of a new school, and learning that Ty Cobb is on the train stopped at the station. Drama arrives in the form of polio, at a time when Franklin D. Roosevelt is both president of the United States and a victim of that dread disease. And resolution comes as the reader sees Jim growing up and expanding his horizons little by little from the town to the ocean to the mountains his daddy came from.

Tony Earley is from North Carolina and now lives in Nashville, where he teaches creative writing at Vanderbilt University. Jim the Boy, his first novel, provoked a lively discussion at my book club meeting Tuesday evening. (My online Book Buddies also read and discussed the book in 2008.) I rate it 7 of 10, a good book.

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