“It’s a tougher job than you think, sometimes, isn’t it? Not really about delivering books at all.”
Published: October 8th, 2019
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Pages: 389 (Kindle)
Series: N/A – Standalone
The Baileyville WPA packhorse librarians were a team, yes, and a team stuck together.
Set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, from the author of Me Before You.
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.
The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.
What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.
This review is going to be part me crying because the book is over and part screaming about how good it was, so be prepared. The Giver of Stars is the newest standalone historical fiction by literary powerhouse Jojo Moyes. She’s written some really beloved contemporary fiction pieces over the years, including Me Before You, which I personally loved.
This new novel is set in backwoods Kentucky and focuses on a very diverse group of women who join up to become the first packhorse librarians. The girls are all from different backgrounds and have vastly different experiences except for the major factor; they’re all women, and being a woman in Depression-era Kentucky is like being the lowest class and least powerful of all citizens, aside from people of color. This novel has a lot of little plot lines running concurrently and it’s told in third person omniscient, but the overall theme of the novel is friendship, bravery, love, and girl-power. It was quite the feminist read, honestly.
The writing was so beautiful and intense, you can see why Jojo Moyes is a really popular fictional author. She developed some realistic characters that I couldn’t help but cry with a, laugh with, and grow with. Moyes has a way of creating such fleshed out and flawed characters that it’s nearly impossible to not be drawn into her stories. There’s a lot of character development here, as well. Something that is evident from the use of the third person narrator, which is probably my favorite little aspect of this novel. It’s almost like it’s a gossip columnist or a Gossip Girl type narrator that knows everyone and everything and is just conveying all the details to us.
I highly recommend this book; it might just be my top read of 2019, that’s how much I loved it. That being said, I was seeing some really troubling articles comparing this to the earlier 2019 debut of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson. Now, I haven’t actually read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek but the article I read did show some striking similarities in terms of plot points and such, but that’s nothing I can speak of with experience because, as I stated, I haven’t read the book in question. I thought it would be lax of me, as someone who does like to stay on top of bookish-issues, not to mention this to my followers because it has caused a little bit of a stir.
All-in-all this was such a wonderfully done historical fiction piece that had the perfect balance of humor, heart, and history. This may have been one of the best releases I’ve gotten to pick up this year and I really think that if you’re new to Jojo Moyes as an author this would be a phenomenal place to start!