Jim the Boy: A Novel by Tony Earley
Tony Earley's debut novel, a coming-of-age story set in a remote North Carolina hamlet. The year is 1934, and like the rest of the country, Aliceville is feeling the pinch of the Great Depression.
Jim Glass lives on a farm with his widowed mother and three uncles, who provide company for the boy and offer casual wisdom on life's travails. Jim's father's sudden death at age 23 left a wake of tenderness as his legacy, so much so that Jim's mother still feels married. However, she will never speak to her father-in-law, who has spent some time in jail and is a loner with a rumored penchant for illegally distilled whiskey. The stormy background Earley paints makes Jim's openness all the more haunting. The narrative develops as a series of loosely related, moving stories: the tragic story behind Aliceville's name, a trip with an uncle to buy a horse that becomes a lesson in the transicence of corporeal life, Jim's best friend's struggle with polio, Jim's mother's resistance to a suitor, and the introduction of electricity to Aliceville on Christmas Eve. In a roundabout fashion, in simple prose, Earley brings Jim Glass to knowledge of his identity. An excellent read from one of the top Appalachian writers.
Tony Earley's short stories earned him a place on Granta's list of the 20 Best Young American Fiction Writers in 1996 and a National Magazine Award for fiction. He has twice been included in the acclaimed anthology, Best American Short Stories. The author's previous novel, Here We Are in Paradise (Little, Brown and Company, 1994), received critical acclaim in The New York Times Book Review and Details, among other publications. He lives with his wife and dogs in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University.