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Jim the Boy

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Jim the Boy is a coming-of-age novel by Tony Earley, published by Little, Brown and Co. in 2000. It details a year in the life of Jim Glass, who lives, with his mother and three uncles, in the small fictional town of Aliceville, North Carolina in 1934 during the Great Depression.

256 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2000

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About the author

Tony Earley

17 books88 followers
Tony Earley (born 1961) is an American novelist and short story writer. He was born in San Antonio, Texas, but grew up in North Carolina. His stories are often set in North Carolina.

Earley studied English at Warren Wilson College and after graduation in 1983, he spent four years as a reporter in North Carolina, first as a general assignment reporter for The Thermal Belt News Journal in Columbus, and then as sports editor and feature writer at The Daily Courier in Forest City. Later he attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he received an MFA in creative writing. He quickly found success writing short stories, first with smaller literary magazines, then with Harper's, which published two of his stories: "Charlotte" in 1992 and "The Prophet From Jupiter" in 1993. The latter story helped Harper's win a National Magazine Award for fiction in 1994.

In 1996, Earley's short stories earned him a place on Granta's list of the "20 Best Young American Novelists", and shortly after that announcement, The New Yorker featured him in an issue that focused on the best new novelists in America. He has twice been included in the annual Best American Short Stories anthology. His writing style has been compared by critics to writers as distant as a young Ernest Hemingway and E. B. White. One of his favorite writers is Willa Cather.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 505 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 3 books115 followers
July 28, 2008
I'm ashamed to admit the first time I tried reading this book I put it down. "What a dumb title for a book," my wife said when she saw what I was reading. Last summer, about sixty pages in, I put it away, thinking it too simple and quiet.

But of two of my good writing friends were unwavering in their testimony about this novel, so I picked it up again a few days ago, and I am so glad I did.

Jim the Boy is a wonderful novel, one of those books that will stand the test of time. From the perfect metaphors to the indelible scenes-- a twilight baseball game, a town blazing with new electricity--this novel draws you in to a universal experience. I love the stories of Jim's father, which come second hand through his uncles. I've dogeared passages that I hope to come back and write more about in my blog, The Grumpy Griffin.

And there is darkness in this story, too. I won't forget Uncle Al shooting those vultures that have come to feed upon horses a farmer killed to keep the bank from taking them. I won't forget Abraham, an African-American, risking his own life to save Jim and a friend after town "roughs" surround them. I won't forget the folklore-tinted story of Jim's father and the "haint" who puts a chill in his heart.

Such scenes, it seems to me, defy summary. I have one final thing to say. If you care about craft, if you care deeply about the human condition, and all the possibilities for goodness that exists in each one of us, then read this book.

Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,024 reviews48.4k followers
December 18, 2013
In an age as sophisticated as ours, what could be more avant-garde than daring to be sweet? "Jim the Boy" is essentially the tale of how a moral person develops in the care of loving adults. Jim, a 10-year-old farm boy, living with his widowed mother and three uncles during the Depression, is faced with the task of growing up. His life is ordinary without being cliche, and his feelings are rendered without an adult's tendency to sentimentalize or belittle. This remarkable novel is a reminder of the wonder of life before one's hopes and fears are clearly demarcated and cataloged, when everything is raw and dazzling.
Profile Image for Barb Middleton.
1,640 reviews122 followers
April 24, 2013
I'm a fraud. I write children's book reviews and I'm an adult. In an ideal world children would write books for children, as well as, review those books, right? The child-adult dual audience dilemma (that's a mouthful) addressed in children's literature studies crossed my mind because the author says he wrote this book from a ten-year-old's perspective for adults, and not, for children. But I don't agree with him. The story reads like a children's book that addresses children and adults as its audience. The child appeal is throughout the pages from getting a new baseball glove, making new friends, seeing a baseball hero, and dealing with a new school, to name a few. The adult appeal is the memories of what it is like growing up, making bad choices but learning from them, and becoming a responsible adult. When Jim tries to chase away a memory he's ashamed of by repeating "please, please, please" I was nodding my head thinking of all the times I chased bad memories away in a similar fashion. What isn't going to appeal to some readers (both adult and child) is the slow pace. While the writing is gorgeous, the plot falls somewhat in the middle with the lack of tension. However, the patient reader will be rewarded by the strong ending.

Jim turns ten and on his birthday gets to go with his uncles to the corn fields to hoe. He is spoiled and self-centered but likable for it is obvious that he loves his uncles and mother. When he works in the fields he makes a mistake and tries to hide it by lying. He is also prejudiced toward Abraham, a black man. His uncle is disappointed in his choices and tells him to go home. Ashamed at first by his actions, Jim, like a typical kid, is quickly distracted by other adults that talk to him along the way. The voices of all the adults in this story care for Jim and nurture him in ways that will make him a good adult.

When Jim meets Penn at school he thinks of him as an ignorant hillbilly and doesn't really recognize his prejudice until he goes to Penn's home at the end. What begins as rivalry ends in friendship and laying aside jealousy on Jim's part. The relationship between Penn and Jim are the most dynamic and tension-filled scenes; whereas, the uncle scenes move the story forward as they show how Jim grows as a person. By the end, Jim has changed in subtle ways from self-centered to more aware of others as can be seen in his changed friendship with Penn, as well as, Abraham rescuing him from bullies and last, him seeing his sick granddaddy. This truly is a coming-of-age story that emphasizes internal monologue over action, a start that deals with an emotional loss, and a journey into growing as an individual. Some might find the lack of action boring, but I found myself pulled along by the prose and characters for the most part.

I didn't care about the mother's story. Her characterization wasn't enough for me to be vested in her growth as an individual. I found the romance-that-never-was quite distracting from Jim's story and I was more annoyed with it than interested in it. The letters didn't seem authentic and while I found Jim's empathy for her well-done, "The death of Jim's father had broken something inside her that had not healed. She pulled the heaviness that had once been grief behind her like a plow," I could have cared less about her inability to love another man. Perhaps if she had been given more dialogue in the story or characterization, I would have picked up the breadcrumbs of her story. As is, I didn't bite; she is in the background and more like "the stray ghosts of fog" than someone of substance.

I liked how the uncles called Jim, "Doc," because like a doctor he healed their grief but the title left me scratching my head. Perhaps it is supposed to be so simple as to reflect the minimalist writing? I kept thinking of my school "Dick and Jane" primers which made me further dislike the title. At the end when Jim realizes the scope of life and death and how big the world is he comments to his uncles, "I'm just a boy." I think I would have liked that better than "Jim the Boy." Ah well. I'm probably missing something literary in the title.

Jim isn't always good and he makes bad decisions, but he always faces them either from an uncle pointing it out or something happening to make him realize his poor choice. He doesn't want to be mean like his granddaddy but he is at times whether that be to Abraham, Penn, or an uncle. When Jim asks his uncle why granddaddy was mean he replies, "All of us have got meanness inside us, I guess, but most of us don't let it come out." While Jim learns self-control, he also recognizes when he's been mean and he tries to fix it, such as with his fight with Penn. The optimistic adult and teacher in me likes a story that shows a character making good decisions. Some might find this too didactic, but I can't help myself, I like it. I also like Earley's descriptions and just when I think he's going to get too sappy, he reigns in on his prose and gets back to the story. If you like good writing and characterization, then I suggest giving this literary gem a chance.

Young Adult
Fountas & Pinnell: W
Profile Image for Carol.
31 reviews
July 30, 2013
Leslie wrote this review @ it represents my thoughts so well.

Maybe it's because I'm finishing this book late at night in my quiet house, but it really has touched me, especially the last 5 pages or so. A really simply, yet powerfully told story of a young boy, Jim, whose life is small but whose challenges are startlingly big. Earley's style is lovely, I found beauty on every page. Would love to read more of his work.

This passage is from page 8.

"'There he is,' Mama said. 'The birthday boy.'
Jim's heart rose up briefly, like a scrap of paper on a breath of wind, and then quickly settled back to the ground. His love for his mother was tethered by a sympathy Jim felt knotted in the dark of his stomach. The death of Jim's father had broken something inside her that had not healed. She pulled the heaviness that had once been grief behind her like a plow. The uncles, the women of the church, the people of the town, had long since given up on trying to talk her into leaving the plow where it lay. Instead they grew used to stepping over, or walking inside, the deep furrows she left in her wake. Jim knew only that his mother was sad, and that he figured somehow in her sadness. When she leaned over to kiss him, the lilaced smell of her cheek was as sweet and sad at once as the smell of freshly turned earth in the churchyard."
Profile Image for Louis.
457 reviews17 followers
August 26, 2008
This book is my favorite novel of the past decade. The hardback version looked to me like a children's book; fortunately, I read the cover of the paperback edition closely enough to realize better. Earley has crafted a wonderful version of a fatherless boy coming to understand the world beyond that of his immediate family. Although set in the Depression, Jim Glass' family does not suffer too much from economic hardship. It is in interacting with others that Jim gains some understanding of hard times. Readers will understand that Jim has a lot to learn about the adult world, but will treasure the in-between spot in his maturation this novel portrays.
Profile Image for Megan Jones.
170 reviews43 followers
January 27, 2009
This was required reading in a Methods of Teaching Class, and it was unfortunately one of the worst books I've ever read. The characters were not well developed, there was no climax to the plot, which itself was way too wholesome and very picturesque. I would never ask anyone, especially students whose time is so limited anyway, to read this book.
Profile Image for Siv30.
2,305 reviews121 followers
July 26, 2019
סיפור חניכה והתבגרות עדין, נוגע ומחמם את הלב, שמחזיר את הקורא לתקופות אחרות שבהן ערכי המשפחה והקהילה היו מרכזיים.

זהו סיפורו של הילד ג'ים איש שם בארה"ב של שנות ה- 20 וה- 30 של המאה ה- 20. אביו של ג'ים מת לפתע בגיל 23. יש שאומרים ממחלת לב ויש שאומרים מכוחות אופל שרדפו אותו. כך או כך, הוא לא זכה לראות את בנו, שעתה בגיל 10 חי עם אימו, סיסי, המסרבת להכיר במות בעלה ולהינשא לאחר ושלושת אחיה הרווקים.

ג'ים גדל בתוך בועה משפחתית והמגע שלו עם העולם מתווך באמצעות האחים של האם והאם האלמנה. הם מקנים לו ערכים מרכזיים של עבודה, חריצות, נאמנות והחשוב מכל ענווה והכרה במקומך בעולם.

הספר מתרחש בשנה בה ג'ים חוגג 11, אז מגיעה הרכבת המהירה לעיירה הקטנה שלהם וגם החשמל מאיר את הבתים בערב חג המולד. כמתנת יום הולדת הוא זוכה להכיר את סבו ולהפנים שהזיקנה, שטיון והמוות אורבים לכולנו, גם למי שנשחשב לאיש החזק באזור עד כדי כך שקרא להתנתק מקונפדרציית המדינות

ג'ים לומד על אהבה ונתינה וחברות אמת בדרך לא קלה. הוא לומד על העולם ועל התמודדויות עם קשיים. כל זאת במעטפת האוהבת והחמה של אמו ושלושת אחיה שמהווים חוצץ ומסנן לאירועים בין ג'ים האירועים השונים והעולם.

הספר מאוד הזכיר לי את הכתיבה של סטיינבק ויש בו איזה ניצוץ מפוקנר, למרות שפוקנר הרבה יותר מורכב בכתיבה שלו, מתחת לכל ישנו קול שעורג אל התמימות.

ספר מקסים.
Profile Image for Lori.
1,431 reviews55.9k followers
February 27, 2010
ARC from Regal

Many times, I am introduced to books by authors I had no previous knowledge of. Authors that I may never have read, were it not for a helping hand. Regal Literary was the helping hand that introduced me to "Jim the Boy" by Tony Earley.

Set in North Carolina during the Great Depression, Earley takes us through a year in a young boys life, where he deals with the joys and frustrations of growing up, learning to appreciate who he is and where he comes from, and realizing that the world is much larger than he could have ever imagined.

Drenched in southern goodness, Earley sculpts Jim, the stories protagonist, out of "frogs and snails and puppy dog tails". Named after his father, who died unexpectedly a week before he was born, Jim is tortured by your typical 10 year old demons. He struggles to overcome unnecessary jealousies, trys to fight his fears, and looks to his three ever-present uncles for direction and structure. Though normally well behaved and respectful, when he gives in to his ugly side it eats at him until he sets things right.

It's an exciting and confusing time for a boy - the town opens it first multigrade school house, breaking down barriers between the mountain people and townspeople. Homes and businesses are wired for electricity. Extended families supporting each other and working together to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. Friendships are made, and broken, and made again. It's a time where anything is possible.

There were moments of beauty in this novel: the description of that moment where the last of the daylight fades right before the darkness takes over, and the way the stars don't seem as bright once the night is saturated by porch lights. There are also moments of sadness and heartbreak: the way that Jim's mother never let go of her deceased husbands memory, or Jim's guilt over not sharing his baseball glove with a close friend who becomes stricken by Polio.

The story slithers and slides through classic territory, it leaves a natural and comfortable down-home glow, following in the footprints of writers like Truman Capote and Harper Lee, bringing this little boy to life right before our eyes.

I see Jim in every little boys unwashed hands, dirty overalls, and sunburned cheeks. He breathes in every kid who ever said a mean thing and wished they could take it back. He hides inside every child who gloats when he wins, yet feels sorry for the one who lost. He is everywhere.
Profile Image for Greg.
260 reviews29 followers
April 13, 2013
This book was recommended to me years ago by my old creative director Mark Figliulo, and even though it’s usually categorized as a young adult book, I read it with my six-year-old Ansel over the course of a few months. It a gentle, vivid, and beautifully Southern story that would sit comfortably in the company of To Kill A Mockingbird, Tom Sawyer, and Where The Red Fern Grows.
It’s a collection of stories - loose and formative experiences, really - centered around Jim Glass, a 10-year-old boy living in rural North Carolina in the 1930’s. His father died before he was born, and that vacancy is filled by his three uncles, Zeno, Coran and Al, who are every bit a father figure as Atticus Finch. Jim sees electricity come to his hometown of Aliceville, and the building of a new school where the city boys and the mountain boys learn and play baseball together. He travels east with Uncle Coran to buy a horse and ends up going to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. A train hits a cow and has to stop for repairs in Aliceville, and it’s rumored that the baseball great Ty Cobb is onboard. And he travels to Lynn’s Mountain to visit a friend struck with polio, and to finally meet his ex-con, moonshining grandfather, whom he has always heard was one of the meanest men alive.
Jim the Boy takes place in a distinct era, but captures the timelessness of childhood. The New Yorker listed Tony Earley as one of the best novelists under 40; I’m not sure who the other contenders were, but with this book, it’s easy to believe the distinction was well earned.
Profile Image for Leslie.
151 reviews22 followers
November 27, 2013
Maybe it's because I'm finishing this book late at night in my quiet house, but it really has touched me, especially the last 5 pages or so. A really simply, yet powerfully told story of a young boy, Jim, whose life is small but whose challenges are startlingly big. Earley's style is lovely, I found beauty on every page. Would love to read more of his work.

This passage is from page 8.

"'There he is,' Mama said. 'The birthday boy.'
Jim's heart rose up briefly, like a scrap of paper on a breath of wind, and then quickly settled back to the ground. His love for his mother was tethered by a sympathy Jim felt knotted in the dark of his stomach. The death of Jim's father had broken something inside her that had not healed. She pulled the heaviness that had once been grief behind her like a plow. The uncles, the women of the church, the people of the town, had long since given up on trying to talk her into leaving the plow where it lay. Instead they grew used to stepping over, or walking inside, the deep furrows she left in her wake. Jim knew only that his mother was sad, and that he figured somehow in her sadness. When she leaned over to kiss him, the lilaced smell of her cheek was as sweet and sad at once as the smell of freshly turned earth in the churchyard."
Profile Image for Jen Heininger.
143 reviews
March 23, 2012
I loved this book. Along the same vein as Peace Like A River or anything by Willa Cather.... loved the simplicity of it. I feel like my 6 year old could read this is in a few years and love it too. It's a great quiet book to read. It's not chick lit, it's not Unbroken.... it's just a peaceful, well-written book that, I thought, is very refreshing. (I was excited to learn that this is the first in what is supposed to be a trilogy by Earley.)
Profile Image for Judy.
24 reviews
November 10, 2013
I think I should have rated this book even higher, but I think some people wouldn't enjoy it. I found it stunning in its use of language, seemingly so simple, but really so profound. The sensitivity of the boy and his family, the love they have for each other, and the way the author portrays them and the times seemed very real to me.
Profile Image for Judy.
3,047 reviews51 followers
February 14, 2020
rating: 4.5

North Carolina, 1934-'35

An interview with Earley quotes him as saying,
That I was able to write about the Depression without having to do a lot of research is because a large part of my family's story stockpile is about life during that time. I feel like I've almost lived in it myself. When my grandmother talks about the way things were, I can almost see it.

This takes place during the years of the Depression, but it doesn't describe the usual hardships. The three men have jobs; they have a truck; they look to buy horses; they have plenty to eat -- their lives seem fairly uncomplicated, but they don't fret over finances. (Anyway, not to the extent that Jim notices.)

This was an easy book to read, and a hard one to put down ... meaning that a couple of nights I found myself reading later than I had intended. It fits nicely with two other titles that I've read this last year:
• The Yearling, Rawlings, backwoods of Florida, 1870s
• A Fortunate Life, Facey, Australia 1902-18
• Jim the Boy, Earley, N Caroline, 1934-35

All three feature a boy who's raised in 'the country,' not in a city, with plenty of space to explore and with the 'great outdoors' being their backyards. Their worlds were free of 'high tech'; religion wasn't a major part of their lives; they knew what it meant to put in a day's work and they knew the difference between right and wrong.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Abby Helmuth.
18 reviews1 follower
August 26, 2022
A beautiful coming-of-age novel. So many phrases and paragraphs just sprung out of the page and landed squarely in my heart. The characters felt so real to me: Jim, his mother, his uncles, his best friend Penn, the farm worker Abraham.

The one thing I didn’t like, though, is that Jim’s mother’s letters felt contrived and forced into the story. I think the book would have flowed better without them.

Just one of many beloved quotes from this book:
“ ‘It’s a terrible thing, what happened to Penn,’ Uncle Zeno said.

‘It ain’t nothing you can fight,’ said Mr. Carson. ‘That’s what I hate about it. It ain’t a thing you can shoot with a gun.’” (pg. 199)
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,733 reviews327 followers
August 1, 2014

Jim Glass turns ten as this novel opens. It is June 1934 and Jim and his mother live with his Uncle Zeno, right next door to his two other uncles, Al and Coran. The men farm, operate a grist mill, cotton gin and feed store. Jim’s mother, Cissy, is their sister and keeps house for them. Jim’s father died suddenly a week before Jim was born. He died without ever reconciling with his father, Amos Glass, who is a mountain man and former convict. As a result, Jim has never met his grandfather.

Earley’s debut novel is quiet, peaceful and yet powerful. I think my heart rate actually slowed while reading; it was that gentle. And yet there are heartaches in the novel, and some frightening situations. The story may focus on one boy, his family and friends but the lessons conveyed are universal. We all make mistakes; we might have selfish or mean thoughts but can overcome those impulses; jealousy can poison a relationship; when we succeed it’s frequently because of the help of others; even adults can marvel at new discoveries; doing what is right may be hard but is part of growing up.

Jim is a wonderful character. He starts the novel feeling so BIG now that he writes his age in double digits “just like the uncles.” He is eager to grow up and take on the responsibilities of adulthood, but his first experience in the field shows him to be still a child – easily distracted by an interesting bug or even a rock that might be an arrowhead. He has always been a star pupil but when a new, larger school is built new students from surrounding areas come in and suddenly he has competition. Jim is stunned to discover that “a hillbilly” might be better at some things than he is. Accompanying Uncle Zeno to buy a horse, he leaves “the boundaries of home” for the first time and begins to witness the effects of the Great Depression. Slowly he becomes aware that instead of being big, he is really rather small, “I’m just a boy.” Perhaps, but he is a boy growing towards manhood.

Earley’s writing is luminous. There were several passages that I read over and over they were so evocative. For example, this passage describing early morning:
The world at that early hour seemed newly made, unfinished; the air, stills wet with dew, an invention thought up that morning…. The sky, in a moment Jim didn’t notice until the moment had passed, turned blue, as if it had never tried the color before and wasn’t sure anyone would like it.

On his mother’s grief:
The death of Jim’s father had broken something inside her that had not healed. She pulled the heaviness that had once been grief behind her like a plow.

On seeing the ocean for the first time:
The sand was burning his feet. Once they reached the beach the sand was cooler, but the roar of the water was fiercer than it had been up on the dune. Jim could taste the salty water, broken up and falling through the air.

On the first day of school:
The previous morning had smelled only like summer, like dew and grass and crops growing in the fields. But this morning the air bore the suggestion of books and pencils and chalky erasers, the pronounced end of long, slow days.

And a sunset:
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 … All but the brightest greens had drained out of the world, leaving in their stead an array of somber blues.

This short gem of a novel should be read by more people. It is simply marvelous.
Profile Image for Sara Latta.
112 reviews19 followers
November 17, 2009
The News-Gazette, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 11/15/09

Coming of Age in North Carolina

Although much young adult literature today is dark, edgy, and/or ironic, Tony Early’s “Jim the Boy” (Little, Brown & Company, 2000) and “The Blue Star” (Little, Brown & Company, 2008) are none of the above. Technically speaking, they’re not young adult novels, either: Earley has described “Jim the Boy” as “a children’s book for adults.” Still, many teen readers will love these books, especially those who have enjoyed Richard Peck’s gentle, witty books featuring the inimitable Grandma Dowdel (“A Year Down Yonder,” “A Long Way From Chicago”).
Jim Glass, the hero of both books, was born in the mythical town of Aliceville North Carolina in 1924, just a week after his father dropped dead of a heart attack. And while his father’s absence is part of the fabric of Jim’s life, his story is not one of loss but of abundance, even in the midst of the Depression. He is lovingly raised by his mother and his three bachelor uncles: Zeno, Al and Coran.
The story begins with Jim’s tenth birthday: “During the night something like a miracle happened: Jim’s age grew an extra digit.” Over the course of the novel, Jim befriends a “mountain boy” at their new school; has a near-encounter with the baseball player Ty Cobb; and in one magical scene, witnesses the introduction of electricity on Christmas Eve. By the end, Jim gains a new appreciation of the grandfather who had rejected him, the uncles who embraced him, and his own identity.
In Early’s follow-up work, “The Blue Star,” Jim is a 17-year old senior in high school, and the country is on the brink of World War II. He is the same thoughtful, caring boy he was at 10, but life is inevitably more complicated. He is in love with a half-Cherokee girl, Chrissie, engaged to marry a boy who joined the Navy just before Pearl Harbor. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Chrissie’s family is virtually indentured to her fiancé’s wealthy family.
“You get bad feelings about a lot of things,” Jim says to Chrissie one day. “There’s a lot in the world to feel bad about,” she replies. “I guess I never thought of it that way,” Jim says, “I think there’s a lot in the world to feel good about.” And there are a lot of things to feel good about in these evocative coming-of-age novels. Recommended for teens and adults alike.

Sara Latta, Champaign, is the author of eleven books for children. Although she specializes in writing about science and medicine, she enjoys reading a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. She has an M.F.A. in creative writing and is currently working on a novel for young adult readers as well as a series of books about forensic science.

Profile Image for Brian.
11 reviews4 followers
July 31, 2008
Jim the Boy is a refreshingly simple story about a 10-year-old boy, Jim, navigating the Depression-laced waters of Aliceville, North Carolina. Jim’s lost his father, but what he lacks from his absence he arguably makes up with the love and care from his three uncles. And I should say that the simplicity of the story comes with the prose, making it a fast read (though I’d imagine this book could, and perhaps should, be sipped and savored), but the heart of this book should satisfy even the most erudite (and sentimental) of readers.

My favorite parts of this story are Earley’s descriptions and treatment of specific moments: how the town became known as Aliceville (a story that we get the impression is told over and over by one of Jim’s uncles), how Ty Cobb, the Georgia Peach, may or may not have watched a game of catch with Jim and his pal, Carson Penn, that became more than either child ever expected, Jim’s vantage point in watching how electricity first came to Aliceville, and of course the final journey and images from up on Lynn’s Mountain. For me, these moments take a heartfelt, captivating story and make it exceptional.

I read this book almost entirely while sitting in sight of the Atlantic from a coastal town in South Carolina. While my situation on a beach vacation with my brother's family was certainly different than Jim's, I still feel equally as awed by the majesty of the ocean as Jim and his uncle Al. What's on the other side? What's lurking under the surface? And who can't relate to Jim concession on the final page on the book? Sometimes a young boy says it best.

How will Jim handle a burgeoning consciousness of the world? I’m told that Earley picks up that thread in The Blue Star, the continuation about Jim’s later teenage years. With a loving family and a well-meaning soul, I suspect Jim will come out okay, but I’m eagerly waiting to find out for myself.

One of the quotes I wrote down while reading:
“He had heard every story his mother and uncles had to tell about his father so many times that over the years his father had become less vivid. It was as if each story was a favorite shirt that had been worn and washed and hung in the sun so often that its fabric, while soft and smooth and comfortable, was faded to where its color was only a shadow of what it had once been.” –p. 103-4
Profile Image for Reece.
14 reviews
November 24, 2013
To forewarn you, this is not going to be a necessarily positive review.

Jim the Boy started out rather interesting, what with the letter written by one of Jim's uncles about his late father's passing, and Jim's turning ten years old. Most every book I read starts boring, and when I first began reading it, I thought it was shaping up to be pretty good. I was interested in the characters, and I kept wanting to pick it back up and read ahead of my class. But then, it started going downhill. After meeting Penn and his cronies for the first time, which was rather interesting, this book started spiraling down. Jim became selfish, and the plot fell flat. Every bit of rising action that seemed fit to engage me deflated after only one page. After Penn was diagnosed with polio, Jim thinking he had the same disease only lasted one chapter and was hardly interesting at all. The plot of Jim's mother worrying about her previous marriage was, in my eyes, entirely pointless and did not affect the story whatsoever. The same goes for the ending 'climax' when Jim goes to see his grandfather for the first and last time. The old man is ill, and the two girls living with him refuse to let Jim and his uncles up to see him. They do, however, allow him to look through the window of the man's bedroom at him. Jim looks, does nothing, and walks away. The book ends with Jim walking away from a window.
While Jim the Boy was written fantastically, with an abundance of beautiful figurative language and detail, the story was uninteresting as a whole, and the main character was unlikable in my eyes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,770 reviews18 followers
June 4, 2015
At one point in this wonderful story, Jim the Boy can't "think of one person in the world he wasn't mad at." We've all been there, certainly, perhaps too often and sadly, perhaps recently. When one reads it and feels it, well, that could be the main reason we eagerly turn pages. In literature, we search for stories we love then hunt for links to other stories we want to love. For me, there is a beautiful wave that starts with Chaim Potok's 1967 classic, "The Chosen", surges through this 2000 story, and then peaks in 2011 with Chad Harbach's achingly beautiful "The Art of Fielding". These books have central characters at different ages, settings about 35 years apart, and geographies hundreds of miles from each other. And if you love baseball, what a trio!
Profile Image for Vincent Lowry.
Author 7 books870 followers
December 17, 2008
I randomly picked this novel up at the bookstore.

I was pleasantly surprised by it, and I think you'll agree if you read it!

Profile Image for Steph.
272 reviews29 followers
May 23, 2017
I hate Jim the Boy. I absolutely could not stand this little brat, and I am thrilled to be done with this book!!!
A bratty 10 year old is the main character. I am not sure what possessed me to pick this book up, but had I known I'd be reading about a kid, I would have definitely passed on it. As much as I hated it, the writing was nice and placed you in a different time. I loved the adults and little Penn... so it wasn't all bad... 2.5/5
Profile Image for Sarah Sammis.
7,185 reviews215 followers
December 9, 2008
Jim the Boy by Tony Earley opens on Jim's tenth birthday. He's at a crossroads in his life, feeling the urge to take on greater responsibilities and the uncertainty that comes with growing up.

Jim is growing up during the Great Depression in Aliceville, North Carolina. Aliceville and he have odd histories. Aliceville is named for a little girl who died and Jim is named for a father who died before he was born.

Like my own family during the Depression, Jim and his mother live with her brothers. The three uncles take the role of his missing father. Though unconventional, they are a tightly knit family.

As Jim grows he begins to question his roots and wants to know more about his father's family, the one thing his mother and uncles seem determined to protect him from. So much of the novel focuses on Jim's internal tug of war between his current life on a small farm with a mother and three bachelor uncles and the life that might have been if his father had lived.

Jim the Boy is a novel that can be savored. It can be read slowly. The chapters work as vignettes. Everything that happens to Jim could just as easily be set against a modern setting.

This year Earley has a sequel to the novel that follows Jim as a seventeen year old. It's called The Blue Star and I'd like to read it sometime.
Profile Image for Shannon.
1,523 reviews
March 31, 2011
Jim the Boy is a quiet, evocative novel. It reads easily, but I found myself reading slowly, taking breaks after each chapter, in order to savor the book for a bit longer. The titular Jim lives in North Carolina during the Great Depression and while Earley's writing certainly takes you to a specific time and place, Jim the Boy is also the story of growing up and the aches and pains that process brings. Can you remember longing for more responsibility, only to want to shirk your duties once they were yours? If it doesn't sound familiar, it might after you read about Jim.

This book isn't flashy, the plot isn't driving, the characters don't grip your heart. But the writing is excellent. Like the book itself, it isn't flashy, but it paints the picture of Jim's life with great care. Jim's uncles are seen as both a unit (the uncles) and as individuals as the story progresses. And Jim himself is a picture of a boy the likes of which I think may be extinct (or nearly so) today. His pace of life, his interests, his friendships are all markedly different than those a ten year old boy experiences today. That's one thing that makes this book worth reading.

If you're in the mood for a story that will gently take you back in time and tell you the story of a boy's last days as a boy, Jim the Boy is a great choice.
Profile Image for Susan.
64 reviews3 followers
March 25, 2009
At a 3.82 average rating, I'll take full responsibility for bringing down the curve. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie with a male central character, but not nearly as good. The kid's a brat. Perhaps we're supposed to believe his unappealing character has been shaped by the absence of his father (who died before he was born), despite the fact he has four uncles (or was it three? I lost count). Sure, like a phantom limb he feels a connection to his father (or wants to understand everyone else's connection?), but that part of the plot line, to me, felt almost like a sidenote until the end when the story had already lost me. His mother, forever in love and devastated by the loss of her husband, was only put in brief context until her interraction by a suitor later in the book, again at a point where I had no investment in the story. Overall, I slogged through it. Had it been 100 pages longer I would have bailed at most a quarter way through.
Profile Image for Scot.
90 reviews24 followers
January 16, 2008
This book is all about great writing. It is written in a lilting, lyrical style that helps to evoke the feelings of nostalgia the story intends to exploit as it helps us to see that the past is just the past; a mixture of experiences that make us who we are by shaping our perspective on the world. The comfort some of us experience when we look back is really just a reaction to the security we feel in knowing how that story ends. The future is so much more uncertain, with death looming at the end of years that may bring hard times.

With Jim the Boy, we see that the past that made us was full of struggle, too. We can draw upon these reserves to move forward.
Profile Image for Chris Callaway.
343 reviews2 followers
March 17, 2008
A simple coming of age story about a boy who begins to get a feel for what life is about. I loved it, and I'm not even completely sure why I loved it, but part of the reason is its portrayal of how complicated life can be or seem to a boy, even one growing up in a small, Southern town where life is supposed to be "simple." I enjoyed the whole thing, but the ending blew me away. There's a simple, straightforward authenticity to the book that derives from the author's style--it reads almost like Juvenile fiction, although I wouldn't put it in that category.
I had to re-read the last few pages, and doing so made me teary-eyed, which rarely happens. Take that for what it's worth.
216 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2017
My favorite style of book. Simple, quiet and profound. It is finely crafted and not a word is wasted. Though it is a full, rich novel, each chapter stands alone as a beautiful short story. Almost perfect.
Profile Image for Frank.
733 reviews38 followers
November 28, 2020
TE hat eher eine Studium des geistigen Lebens eines 10-jährigen Knaben als eine Novelle geschrieben und seine bescheidene Absicht ist passable getroffen. Nur war die Material zu dünn um auch nur 200 Seiten zu füllen. Es verlief alles also ziemlich langsam und mit wenigen Ereignissen.
Profile Image for DeborahSS.
19 reviews
November 13, 2022
This book is a tender look into the life of Jim Glass during his tenth year in Depression-era North Carolina. I'm a sucker for a good coming-of-age novel, and this one didn't let me down.
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