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Jim the Boy: A Novel Hardcover – June 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316199648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316199643
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,341,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tony Earley made his debut with Here We Are in Paradise, a superbly understated collection of (mostly) small-town vignettes. He returns to the same terrain in his first novel, Jim the Boy, setting this coming-of-age story 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. Yet neither Jim nor his mother nor his three uncles--who have split the paternal role neatly among themselves since the death of Jim's father a decade earlier--are feeling much in the way of economic pain. Indeed, if you stuck a satellite dish on the front lawn, the story might be taking place in the New South rather than the older, bucolic one.

This isn't to suggest that Earley is deaf to social detail. Indeed, there are all sorts of wonderful touches, like the décor in Jim's classroom, with its "large, colorful maps of the United States, the Confederacy, and the Holy Land during the time of Jesus." But Jim the Boy is very much the tale of a 10-year-old's expanding consciousness, which at first barely extends beyond the family property. Earley has a real gift for conveying childhood epiphanies, like Jim's sudden apprehension of the wider world during a trip in Uncle Al's truck:

Two thoughts came to Jim at once, joined by a thread of amazement: he thought, People live here, and he thought, They don't know who I am. At that moment the world opened up around Jim like hands that, until that moment, had been cupped around him; he felt very small, almost invisible, in the open air of their center, but knew that the hands would not let him go. It was almost like flying.
The simple lyricism and anti-ironic sweetness work mostly to the book's advantage. There are times, it's true, when Earley sands his prose down to an unnatural smoothness, and we seem to be edging toward the sentimental precincts of a young-adult novel. But on the whole, Jim the Boy is a lovely, meticulous work--a song of innocence and (eventually) experience, delivered with just a hint of a North Carolina accent. --James Marcus

From Publishers Weekly

Simple, resonant sentences and a wealth of honest feeling propel this tracing of a 10-year-old boy's coming of age in Aliceville, N.C., in the 1930s. Earley's debut novel (after his well-received collection Here We Are in Paradise) carries us, in charmingly ungangly fashion, toward its moving, final epiphanies. Quizzical, innocent Jim Glass lives on a farm with his widowed mother and three uncles, who provide companionship 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 even after his death. However, she will never speak to her father-in-law, who has spent some time in jail and is a despicable loner with a rumored penchant for illegally distilled whiskey. The stormy background Earley provides makes Jim's openness and na?vet? all the more haunting. The narrative develops as a series of loosely related, moving anecdotes: the tragic story behind Aliceville's name, a trip with an uncle to buy a horse that becomes a lesson in the transience of corporeal life, a race up a greased pole at a carnival that casts a new light on Jim's bonds with another boy, 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 roundabout fashion, and in simple, often poetic prose, Earley brings his protagonist to knowledge of his identity. The dramatic and entrancing growth of this wisdom may strike some readers as overly sentimental. Nevertheless, the closure the book achieves is solid and well-earned. 7-city author tour. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Well written with strong characters.
E. Moore
Instead, the author has written a universal story, a children's book for adults that tells a complex story in simple language and style.
Realizing the potential ability but stark errancy of human beings, maybe it should not be so difficult to acknowledge.
S. G. Fortosis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By "suzy_que" on June 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've seen many books in my life but not one as good and wholesome as Jim the Boy. After reading the few reviews saying it's suitable only for children I felt I must disagree with them and agree with the majority saying how wonderful it is. Jim the Boy is a heart warming tale for everyone. True, it is suitable for children but it's also a book that you as an adult can read without being disgusted by the language and graphic details most authors use today. What a few would call suitable only for children I feel is calling as an adult. It is a tale so clean and simple that it makes one yearn for more. Jim the boy is a book that is for everyone and will quickly become a classic, rivaling Charlotte's Web and Where the Red Fern Grows. Keep writing Mr. Earley and Thank you for Jim the Boy.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Hanssen on October 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I first starting reading this book, I thought the life of these characters was just too wonderful. How can anyone's life be this plain and perfect. But that's the attraction and what makes this story seem like a sweet story from the distant past when things were so much more calmer and families really stayed together. If we could only all show so much innocense and love for each other today.
"Jim the Boy" tells the story of a young boy named Jim, coming of age, in a very remote and peaceful North Carolina town. It's 1934 and during the depression. Jim's father has been dead 10 years now, and his 3 wonderful uncles are now his mentors, who deeply care for Jim and their sister Cissy. The story from this point on tells of Jim's everyday adventures, and feelings while growing up.
Tony Earley's beautiful descriptions of this time period, small town life, and everyday surroundings are indeed poetic. It's like a breath of fresh air in the countryside, and I mean rural countryside. It's nice to settle back, relax, and fantazise about an earlier peaceful time when people lived so differently than we do now. A truly wonderful book.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Longorio VINE VOICE on November 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Jim the Boy follows young Jim Glass throughout the year following his 10th birthday. The son of a man who died before he was born, Jim is living with his mother and under the care of his unmarried uncles. He moves about Aliceville, North Carolina as he begins to expand his world, a new school and new friends,athe first baseball glove and a chance "encounter" with Ty Cobb. He also is more aware of his family, beginning to look at them, seeing the struggle his mother has with raising a son on her own, his uncles gentle understanding (and their lives outside their care of him) and a expanding knowledge of his father's childhood up in the hills. There are also glimpses of the depression, the social strata, and the expansion of technology into small town life. The characters are all well drwan,and believable, true to the small town roots without being cloying or condensending. I think this is a book for all ages, a true treasure.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Jim the Boy" is not the deepest or the most technically well-written novel I have ever read. But I still found it hard to put down. I enjoyed it. A lot of other reviewers have commented that it is "only suitable for children" (I suppose because it has no... violence, or 4-letter words?) Actually, I am not sure children would understand Jim's feelings at the end of the novel - I think they are something you have to have passed out of childhood to understand. I have to admit I welcomed a book where I knew no graphic... scenes would "sneak up" on me.... Life is more than that! "Jim the Boy" is very simply and sparely written. The style is almost flat. But I think that is suitable for the subject matter - the story of the life of a boy, a boy for whom seeing the ocean is a big thing, a boy who has never really traveled out of his small town. The sketchiness of the story and the characters in a way work for it. In a way, it is like memories: do you remember every dinner you ate as a child? Every school day? No, and neither does this novel. And the book points out something really very important: our lives, after all, are defined by the apparently-small moments. Eating a piece of apple. Throwing a ball and hitting someone. Climbing a tree. We may think we are better or more sophisticated than Jim, but ultimately, we are not.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Tony Earley's "Jim the Boy" is a pitch-perfect, marvelously told story of Jim Glass, Jr.'s tenth year of life in remote Aliceville, North Carolina during the early part of the Great Depression. This is an elegant, direct novel, written from the point-of-view of the ten-year old who is just beginning to glimpse at the challenges and perplexing questions with which adults grapple throughout their lives. It is a poignant novel as well, reminding us that simple truths which revolve around family life ring majestically and timelessly. It is a testimonial to the dignity of the human condition, as well, as the novel's protagonist, his mother and her three brothers (who become surrogate fathers to Jim) understand, without ever saying so, that a strong family can withstand poverty, deprivation, and even the most cruel circumstance...the loss of a husband and father.
Earley's style is somewhat epigramatic, each chapter containing not only action which advances the plot, but a moral epiphany that encourages Jim's social and personal growth. These growing awarenesses, however, are not pat or false in emotional tone. Jim's three uncles assume their responsibilities to their sister and her son with quiet dignity and resolve; Jim's mother has suffered terribly with the loss of her one love in life, and in a series of remarkable scenes and letters, she shows her commitment to her life's decisions with enormous impact.
Jim, too, must confront some of the baser parts of his personality. When competitive drive leads him to become arrogant and at times insensitive to the needs of others, his uncles, by word and action, instruct him to the ways of modesty and interdependence.
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