Jim the Boy by Tony Earley
Jim lives with his mother, his father died before he was born, in rural North Carolina. He’s never met his dad’s father, who lives up on a mountain in a town close by. His uncles live close though. He has three uncles and none of them ever got married. They each have their own houses, but they eat at Jim’s mom’s house. His mother does all the cooking and cleaning for the uncles. There’s a girl that helps too.
It’s Jim’s tenth birthday and he very much wants to go work in the fields with his uncles. They give him a hoe, not the one he wants, and Jim sets off to work. Things don’t turn out so well. He ends up cutting down two corn stalks and he’s not nearly as fast as he thought he was. His uncles get him a new catcher’s mitt and baseball for his birthday.
Time goes on and Jim’s friend comes down with polio. They don’t know if he’s going to live for a while. The uncles tell Jim that he needs to meet his grandfather, he’ll regret it if he doesn’t. Meanwhile his mother debates over whether to let another man in her life. She worries that either way Jim will miss something in his life.
Jim learns that there are things you don’t always want to do, but sometimes it’s good to do those things.
What I liked
This book is somewhat local, which is nice. It’s obviously set a while back. I think the author does a good job of portraying that time period. Some people had electricity and some people didn’t. The land was worked by hand. It wasn’t an easy life.
Jim did seem to grow throughout the book. In the beginning he’s very much a brat, as many little boys are, for some reason. Some of them grow out of it, thank goodness. By the end of the book I can see some the maturity Jim has poking through the little boy exterior.
What I didn’t like
It’s sad not to know your father or your grandfather. I didn’t grow up with my father and my step-father wasn’t exactly grade-a dad material, not by a long shot. I can tell you that it is difficult to grow up minus one parent. There’s only one side of things, that’s the side of the parent you live with. It doesn’t matter if they’re right, or if they’re wrong. You only get their side of things. Grandfathers are also nice to know. The one grandfather of mine that I have been around is pretty great. He’s taught me a lot of great stuff and he’s a good person. My life would be terribly different without him.
This is a round-about way of saying I feel sorry for Jim. I think it’s unfortunate that he’s going without so much in his life, but the good thing is that he still has his uncles.
Don’t get into a fight with your best friend when Ty Cobb is watching.
Did you find yourself feeling lacking if you grew up without one parent?
Do you have a good connection with your extended family?