Summary and book reviews of Jim The Boy by Tony Earley

Jim The Boy

By Tony Earley

Jim The Boy
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2000,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2001,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

Selected by Granta as one of America's best young writers and featured in The New Yorker's best young fiction issue, Tony Earley now gives us a luminous portrait of a ten-year-old boy growing up in the Depression-era town of Aliceville, North Carolina:

"As the sun began to set, Jim and the uncles watched the last yellow light of the day slide up the mountain toward the bald, dragging evening behind it. When the light went out of their faces, they turned and watched it retreat up the peak, where at the summit a single tree flared defiantly before going dark. A chilly breeze whipped from nowhere across the bald and flapped the legs of Jim's overalls. He turned with the uncles for a last look at the view before heading down the mountain. All but the brightest greens had drained out of the world, leaving in their stead an array of somber blues. A low fog had begun to seep out between the trees along Painter Creek. Jim jumped down from the rock and looked again toward home."

At once delightful and wise, Jim the Boy brilliantly captures the pleasures and fears of youth at a time when America itself was young and struggling to come into its own.

Jim the Boy will appeal to the readers who loved classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, Ellen Foster, and A Member of the Wedding.

Breakfast

During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim’s age grew an extra digit. He was nine years old when he went to sleep, but ten years old when he woke up. The extra number had weight, like a muscle, and Jim hefted it like a prize. The uncles’ ages each contained two numbers, and now Jim’s age contained two numbers as well. He smiled and stretched and sniffed the morning. Wood smoke; biscuits baking; the cool, rivery smell of dew. Something not quite daylight looked in his window, and something not quite darkness stared back out. A tired cricket sang itself to sleep. The cricket had worked all night. Jim rose to meet the waiting day.

Jim’s mother opened the stove door with a dishrag. Mama was tall and pale and handsome; her neck was long and white. Although she was not yet thirty years old, she wore a long, black skirt that had belonged to her mother. The skirt did not make her seem older, but rather made the people in the room around her ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Questions
  1. How do Jim's uncles each play the role of father-figure? Do they make up for his father's absence? Should Jim's mother have remarried when she had the chance in order to give Jim a "real" father?

  2. Both the setting and Jim's life have a simple quality, yet through each flows a more complicated undercurrent. How do the setting and era reflect Jim's character?

  3. Why does Uncle Zeno take Jim on the trip out of town? What do the incident with the horses and his first view of the ocean teach him?

  4. Jim's mother turned down the marriage proposal because she believed she had already met and married her one eternal love. Do you believe, as she does, in the idea of eternal love?

  5. Why did Jim feel such a ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
salon.com - Jonathan Miles

The long-awaited novel by a New York Times and New Yorker darling is a plodding, goody-two-shoes effort that reads like a dusty Boy Scout manual.

New York Times Book Review

Tony Earley has a wonderful gift for deep observation, exact and wise and often funny.

Author Blurb Jill McCorkle, author of Carolina Moon
Jim the Boy, Tony Earley's wonderful novel, shines with all we've come to expect from his fine stories graceful prose, gentle wit, compassionate spirit. This novel beautifully captures those moments in childhood that will shape and forever call back to Jim the man. I don't know when I've met such an endearing cast of characters. May they live a long, long life.

Author Blurb Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal
With the calm, measured quiet of a writer who knows absolutely what he is about, Tony Earley renders luminous one boy, one family, one very small town--and, by delicate implication, the wide world just beyond that charmed circle.

Author Blurb Alice McDermott, author of Charming Billy
Jim the Boy is a delight. A sweet, graceful novel that charms the reader with marvelous language, honest emotion, and authentic characters who are no less human, no less complex, for being sincere and straightforward, and good. As his short stories have already shown, Tony Earley is a wonderful writer.

Reader Reviews
katelyn_jay

not my favorite..
I had to read this book for ninth grade, going into honors English. I didn't think it was horrible, but there was no point to it. It shows a ten year old boy, who lost his father before he was born, going to school, making a friend, and growing up. ...   Read More

Elli

Beautiful Writing, Weak Plot
While the book had some beautiful descriptions and writing, there was absolutely no strong plot. The book was just a boring story about a boy that lives in a small town. He turns 10, he goes to school, he tries to help on his family's farm, and that'...   Read More

V_Volcanoo.

Jim the Boy
Well, what can I say? I thought it was very weak and really no sense. Very slow pace. Just awful. Also a lot of things didn't really make sense whatsoever.

Unkown

Decent Book
I found this book to be a good choice for myself. For school I have been reading many of the classics and this fit in perfectly with all the other books. It was a great find and I recommend this book to anyone out there looking for another classic ...   Read More

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