Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Giver of Stars

  The Giver of Stars
Author:  Jojo Moyes
Publication Information:  Pamela Dorman Books. 2019. 400 pages.
ISBN:  0399562486 / 978-0399562488

Book Source:  I read this book based on having enjoyed previous books by the author.

Opening Sentence:  "Listen."

Favorite Quote:  "There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet. But you are never trapped, Alice. You hear me. There is always a way around."

The Giver of Stars combines the history of the Pack Horse Library Project with a story of strong women coming together to build each other up and support each other. From 1935 until 1943, this Works Progress Administration program hired "book women" to travel by horse or mule through the Appalachians delivering books and other available reading materials to remote homes and schoolhouses.

The Giver of Stars is about a group of such librarians. This is a group of women that otherwise would most definitely not be in the same social circle and might never even have crossed paths. Different reasons bring them to be librarians. What unites them is the realization that despite all their differences, they are the same in their worries and in terms of the role of women in society.

The story begins somewhat in the middle with an assault. No names and no details are given - a prologue. The book then truly begins with the arrival of a new bride. She comes to this small Kentucky town from England. The reality she encounters is not what she envisions. The Pack Horse Library Project gives her an outlet. From this perspective, she sees the role of women in this community, the racial divisions, the prejudice, the poverty, and the hardships. She also discovers a group of women, who in their own way are creating change.

The story focuses on these elements of this Kentucky town and eventually winds its way back to the original assault. Where it goes subsequently is unexpected and in a direction different than I expect. The library project becomes the background, and this group of women standing up for each other becomes the story. I somewhat wish that the story had remained that of the quiet suffering and resilience of this community rather than the melodramatic turn that it takes.

Aside from the story and my review, here is an interesting side note of this book. Kim Michele Richardson's book The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was published on May 7, 2019. The Giver of Stars has a publication date of October 8, 2019. Both are set in the Pack Horse Library Project. Both of these books are the stories of the book women in eastern Kentucky. Kim Michele Richardson was born and raised in Kentucky. Jojo Moyes is said to have spent time there researching.

Upon the release of this book, Kim Michele Richardson raised a concern about the alleged plagiarism of her work. Based on the articles I have read, the accusation was denied. Ms. Richardson's publisher declined to pursue the matter. Where does the truth lie? Perhaps, we will never know, but a literary scandal was too interesting not to mention. Read both and decide for yourself. For me, Kim Michele Richardson's is the more unique and more memorable book. The Giver of Stars is a book about a strong sisterhood that grows out of need, but I feel that that story has been told before in different ways in different books.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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