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News

"Brown is the new green," says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spending nearl...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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Business

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

DR. ALFRED HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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"The Silver Star" illuminates resilience of young heroines


Author Jeannette Wells is no stranger to dysfunction.

Her best-selling memoir, “The Glass Castle” (Scribner, 2006), chronicles her hardscrabble childhood roaming from town to town in the desert before settling into a life of poverty in West Virginia. Her follow-up, “Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel” (Scribner, 2009), explores the adventurous life of her grandmother, an unconventional rodeo rider and bootlegger.

Walls’ latest novel, “The Silver Star” (Scribner, 2013), once again features resilient young girls who overcome trying circumstances. Liz, 15, and Jean (nicknamed “Bean”), 12, travel on their own from California to their mother’s hometown of Byler, Va., to stay with their elderly Uncle Tinsley. Their mother, Charlotte, has run off to Southern California for an indefinite time in a never-ending effort to pursue her dubious singing and acting career.

Life in 1970s Byler holds many advantages for the girls, but they run into a heap of trouble when they accept employment from the local mill boss and town bully, Jerry Maddox.

Two themes ring loud and clear in “The Silver Star”: the depths of Charlotte’s dysfunction and the injustices of the adult world.

It’s obvious from where Walls derives her inspiration: “The Glass Castle” documented her childhood with an alcoholic, delusional father and a free-spirited mother, both of whom proved candidates for the Worst Parent of the Year Award, Lifetime Achievement. But as in “The Glass Castle,” young heroines Bean and Liz deal with a large dose of injustice, and it is impressive to see how the girls handle themselves during the crisis.

Despite the larger, compelling themes, the real charm of “The Silver Star” lies in the descriptions and attitudes of and anecdotes about Byler’s residents. These are beautifully drawn characters: Bean has an aunt who works hard all day at the mill and comes home to cook and care for her physically disabled husband and four children, one of whom is probably mentally disabled. Yet this family has fun times, too, such as when they all go deep into the woods to pick chestnuts from the few remaining trees.

Liz and Bean, too, talk like real children and have a believable assortment of quirks and insecurities. In some respects, the book reads like a coming-of-age story as Liz comes to embrace a more unconventional path in life after adopting a pair of emus that belong to a neighbor: “She felt that she was sort of like an emu. … Both she and emus wanted to fly – they just didn’t have the wings they needed.”

In addition to rich characters, “The Silver Star” illuminates the political context of the day, with racial tensions in particular described in a nicely nuanced way. The book is set in 1970, when federal law forced schools in Byler to integrate. Tensions boil over at the first high school football game, and a huge fight erupts. Students later discuss the violence and other topics in class with surprising sensitivity and an encouraging give-and-take.

Fans of “The Glass Castle” will surely enjoy “The Silver Star.” I would highly recommend it as a selection for a women’s book club.

Leslie Ashmore is a longtime Mountain View resident who belongs to two book clubs.

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