Jim the Boy by Tony Earley

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This happens sometimes.  I’m between books I have to read for school and all of the sudden have an opening to read something that’s been on my list.  It can’t be a long novel because these windows of opportunity slam shut the minute I begin teaching a new novel in one of my literature classes at Inly. But I had some time this weekend to read a book I’ve wanted to read for years.  A decade to be exact.  I bought Jim the Boy by Tony Earley when it was published in 2000.  It has been sitting on my shelf since my now 15-year-old son was in kindergarten!  That’s embarrassing.

But here’s the thing: it was really good and well worth waiting for.  Jim the Boy is the story of a boy growing up in the 1930s in a small town in North Carolina.  Jim lives with his widowed mother and three uncles, and I fell in love with every one of them, especially Jim.  This is not a novel with lots of action, but it is moving and lovely.  It captures another time and place so brilliantly that I felt transported.   I have to quote another review here because it perfectly states what I’m trying to say. In his New York Times Book Review front page article, Walter Kirn wrote: “From its title to its closing sentence, Tony Earley’s first novel returns to basics, back to modernness in the old sense of the word. It’s not a big book, just a good one – and in this instance ‘good’ is higher praise than great.'”

The best part is that Earley wrote a sequel, The Blue Star, which follows Jim’s life into the 1940s. I’m not going to let this one sit on the shelf.  In fact, I’m going to start it tonight.  By the way, The Blue Star was published in 2008. It has only been sitting in my “to read” pile for two years.  Not bad…


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