"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 and The Peacock Emporium 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 Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they're committed to their job--bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives. Based on a true story rooted in America's past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women's friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond"--
My favorite is Margery. She had this bold attitude and really was the type of leader that the other women needed. She helped the other women to bring out their personalities and stand up for themselves; especially Alice.
The Giver of Stars is a real literary treat for readers! Ms. Moyes infuses such life into everything from the women to the story itself. I look forward to reading the next book from this author.
Alice Wright is swept off her feet by the handsome American, Bennet Van Cleve. Leaving her native England for a new life in Kentucky, she quickly realizes that life across the Atlantic is not what she had hoped, especially living with her overbearing father-in-law.
She is feeling completely stifled in her new life. To escape her mundane existence, she signs up for the travelling library—a job for the women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt's initiative.
Margery is the leader of the group and soon becomes Alice's greatest ally. She is a no-nonsense, sassy and spirited woman that has never asked a man for anything. Rounding out the roster of what will be known as the "Horseback Librarians of Kentucky" are three other women.
Even though they are faced with all different types of danger, the women are committed to their job of bringing books to the people who have never had any. They are sharing the gift of learning to change lives.
A tale of how rewarding friendship between women are, of true love, and for what lies beyond.
The Giver of Stars is a story that celebrates reading and the group of women responsible for delivering library books to the people living in the mountains of Kentucky during the Great Depression. Moyes' latest offering is based on the real-life program that was created by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
What is most engaging about Jojo's writing is how she infuses her books with humour to counteract the heartbreak. Her writing is rich and moving while also being lighthearted and entertaining.
Of the two main characters, Margery is the fearless one, whereas Alice is someone who finds her purpose through her work and her female friendships. But both women are strong in their own different ways.
While I enjoyed the book for the most part, it was a little long, and at times overly dramatic—most of the story focuses on Van Cleve trying to destroy the project and the women involved. And I felt that Moyes was trying to lighten the drama with romance and it didn't work for me. What did however, were the parts that focused on the women themselves, and of the travelling library. This coupled with her beautiful descriptions of the landscape really made the book.
This novel is an exploration of the depths of relationships, about standing up for what is good and right, and above all, it is about love. A solid 3.5 stars.
The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes is historical fiction inspired by the remarkable women who worked for the WPA Packhorse Library in rural Kentucky from the mid 1930’s to the mid 1940’s. For around $28 a month, these travelling librarians rode into the Appalachian Mountain through difficult terrain and all types of weather delivering books to homes and schools.
“It’s women doing the riding. Delivering the books.’
‘By themselves?’ came a man’s voice.
‘Last time I looked, God gave ’em two arms and two legs, just like the men.”
Moyes sets her novel in the fictional small mining town of Baileyville in southern Appalachia, where the newly founded Packhorse Library attracts a group of diverse women into its employ. Though nominally headed by Mrs. Brady, it’s Margery O’Hare, a fiercely independent Mountain woman who takes charge of the library. She is joined by Alice Van Cleeve, the new English bride of the mine owner’s son, who is regretting the whirlwind courtship that brought her half way across the world, Beth, the daughter of a local farmer, who dreams of one day escaping Kentucky, Mrs. Brady’s reluctant daughter, Izzy, new widow Kathleen, and Sophia, a young black woman who becomes the library’s clerk.
“I believe sending young women out by themselves is a recipe for disaster. And I can see nothing but the foment of ungodly thoughts and bad behaviour from this ill-conceived idea”
Moyes portrays the community and its residents in a believable manner, highlighting the hard scrabble life of its poorest, and the arrogance of its richest. She explores common prejudices of the era, especially against women, and the environmental and social impact of unregulated mining, but most importantly the author shows how access to books and reading can change the lives of people for the better.
“The Baileyville WPA packhorse librarians were a team, yes, and a team stuck together.”
Of course, the focus of The Giver of Stars is really on the women of the Packhorse Library, the trials they face, and the friendship, support, and strength they offer one another. The characters are well developed, each strong, admirable women who earn the gratitude and trust of those they serve as they often go above and beyond their job description.
“She loved it here. She loved the mountains and the people and the never-ending sky. She loved feeling as if she was doing a job that meant something, testing herself each day, changing people’s lives word by word.”
A captivating story of friendship, love, identity, and justice, The Giver of Stars is a wonderful read.
Fortunately, the WPA's packhorse library's need for librarians comes along to save her. The only things that anchors this book in the 20th century, the packhorse library really existed. "Librarians" took books into the hills and remote areas of Kentucky (and other places), and, at least in this book, brought the light of literature out to the boonies. Alice must contend with mistrust (not only is she not from the nearest small-town, she has an accent all the way from England), hazardous weather, and a bonehead husband. Fortunately, the promise of new friendships and happier times is on the horizon, if Alice can tough it out.
This may sound like a lightweight book, but it's actually not. Swirling around Alice are issues of poverty, illiteracy, prejudice, class injustice, and the unionization of coal miners. On a personal level, she must also deal with the nature of marriage and her obligations to her family. Moyes does an elegant job of illuminating all these issues while also writing realistic and relatable characters and situations. As a librarian, I was, of course, particularly taken with her discussions of the packhorse librarians and their goals of spreading literacy throughout the countryside. Her descriptions of how books changed the lives of the families in the hills serves as a timeless reminder of the importance of books and libraries to everyone.
The main characters in this book are strong and diverse group of women. Alice, unhappy in her marriage and not accepted by the town; Margery, the daughter of a man, now deceased, who solved his problems with his fists. After what Margery had seen of marriage, she vowed never to get married and lives by herself. Isabelle, has legs crippled by polio and is afraid of horses but wants to help and Sophia, the black woman who keeps the library organized. These women make it their goal to provide literature to other people despite the constant backlash from the men in town who feel that the only thing people should be reading is the Bible and that by providing books, the library women are ruining the moral fabric of the town and spreading salacious material that will undermine the male dominance.
This was a well written, interesting book and I highly recommend it.
The story begins with a character Margery who is involved in an altercation with a man while delivering her books. Then we are introduced Alice, an English woman, falling in love with an American marries and then finds herself not in the American cities she's heard about, but the hills of Kentucky. Through the disillusionment of her marriage and current situation Alice tries to find a purpose by volunteering for the newly formed WPA-sponsored horseback library. Guided by Margery, an example of a woman who lives outsides the cultural norms of how a woman should act, Alice sets out to find friendship and self-preservence through her work.
Throughout the story are the tales of mining life in Kentucky, impoverished isolated people - who are admired for what they have - not for what they don't, hardships of living in a rural area, and prejudice.
The relationship of Alice and her husband (and husband's father) provides a tension throughout the story. This is the only part of the storyline that I wish was better developed.
Halfway through the story we are reminded of the scene with Margery at the beginning of the book and its foreboding of the drama for the remainder of the book.
A thoroughly enjoyable peak into a place and time where it is easily demonstrated how much accessibility to books where reading and sharing them changes perspectives, brings comfort, joy, and knowledge - that improves people's lives.
The Giver of Stars, however, is more story. It's about friendships and personalities and romance. It's about betrayal and learning to trust again. It's about censorship to some extent, but also the revelations books can bring, both internally and externally.
There were two or three scenes that didn't quite ring true for me, but those rough spots didn't ruin the story.
Ultimately, Jojo Moyes has written a book about people growing and standing up for what is right, while accepting that some people will never change, but that doesn't mean they have power over you. I love stories that embrace that mindset.
As Margery tells Alice, "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."
An English girl, Alice, marries an apparently wonderful, handsome American called Bennett and moves to Kentucky. The marriage doesn’t turn out to be as idyllic as hoped, but Alice finds comfort in joining a travelling library, the USA Packhorse Library.
Together with other young women she travels on horseback to people in mountain areas to deliver books to new, avid readers. Some of the readers first have to be taught to read.
The work proves to be somewhat dangerous but is rewarding for Alice, and she becomes great friends with the other women.
There is Margery O’Hara, unconventional, stubborn but kind and a true friend. There is Izzy, daughter of Mrs Brady, the leading lady in the town. Izzy had polio as a child and needs to wear a brace on her leg. There is also Beth.
Alice’s father-in-law, Mr Van Cleve, is an unpleasant, domineering man who unfortunately lives with them. He is a mine-owner, and the miners have to put up with brutality and harsh conditions.
Sophia is a coloured woman who had spent eight years in the coloured library but though she is a trained librarian, due to her colour, she is not really permitted to work in the women’s library. She becomes a valuable help by organizing the books.
Margery is single and in no way interested in marriage but has a staunch admirer, a kind man called Sven.
Alice’s marriage goes to pot but she too finds an understanding potential partner.
Van Cleve makes life difficult for Alice, and particularly for Margery, who eventually ends in jail, though totally innocent of any crime.
The book is well-written, with lots of dialogue, and is an enjoyable read for the most part, though some of it I found uncomfortable to read, because in a way it is about a battle between good and evil and it seemed like the wrong side was winning.
I loved learning about the lives of these women. They're all a little prickly and inside of themselves in the beginning. But as they work together and become closer, they all come out of their shells a little bit. They become bolder, more independent. They dream larger. The job gives them a bigger purpose, and they all seem the better for what they're able to do for their community.
Of course, there are some in the community that are opposed to the progress that comes along with a community that is reading more. There is definitely resistance to what they're doing, but the ladies push back. I love the way everything ended up for each one of the librarians. I wouldn't have minded more to the end of the story, though. By the time I got to the end, I was really getting into the plotlines for Marjery and Alice, especially. But overall, it was splendid and I would recommend it to everyone-especially people that really love to read.
Audiobook Notes: I bought this audiobook because Julia Whelan narrates it. I love listening to her read. She's read some of my favorite books, and this one was just a pleasure to listen to. Her voices for each character are wonderful and I enjoyed her accents. Definitely worth the use of a precious audiobook credit.
Title: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 13 hours, 52 minutes, Unabridged
Publisher: Penguin Audio
The story follows a lot on Alice Wright, a British woman, who moves after marrying Kentucky native Bennett Van Cleve. As Alice becomes both dissatisfied with her marriage and small-town life, she joins the group of traveling librarians. In spite of their seemingly inoffensive mission, Alice and the other women begin to disturb the sensibilities of their small town who see their group as a threat. Chief among the secondary characters is Margery O’Hare, a kind yet tough individualist, a product of her miserable childhood.
This is a story of courage, hope, justice, betrayals, loss and love. But above all else it’s a story of friendship and a portrait of rural Kentucky before 1940. I really enjoyed reading about Alice, Izzy, Kathleen, Sophia, Beth, and Margery who showed how me the power of books and the escape they provide us.
I listened to the audio narrated by Julia Whelan and enjoyed it very much. I'm definitely going to read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which is also about the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book, the strength of them, watching them come into themselves. They become her family, much more than family by blood or marriage. And I loved the historical aspect. There was a bit too much romance for my tastes, but it's not really a romance. This is well worth reading, as is the other book I read about this program, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
I listened to the audio version of this book, and the narrator, Julia Whelan, was excellent. When she spoke as Alice trying to imitate a Kentucky accent, I literally laughed out loud, something I rarely do while reading.