The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow (Waterbrook/Multnomah, September 2020)
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
Triumphant and transcendent, this delicious historical novel is easily one of the season’s best. Here’s why:
Young Adelaide “Addie” Cowherd’s world falls apart when she’s suddenly dismissed from the University of Kentucky due to financial woes. Her adoptive family has lost its house and Addie has to find a job to help pay the bills. Fast. But jobs are hard to come by during the Great Depression.
Emmet Tharp is the first person in Boone’s Hollow to ever graduate from college. But his degree isn’t much good when no one’s hiring and coal mining or making moonshine are the town’s economic mainstays.
Disconnected and disappointed, both Emmet and Addie wind up in Boone’s Hollow, a tiny burg in the hills of Kentucky. Emmet goes home to the Hollow after graduating and can’t find a job. Desperate, he winds up in the in the nearby Lynch coal mine along with his Paw.
Addie worked part-time in the town library to help pay her college bills. But the library budget is tight and there’s no money for a full-time job. So Addie eventually signs on as a “packhorse librarian” in Boone’s Hollow, delivering books to isolated hill people by horseback.
Addie’s arrival at Boone’s Hollow is dismaying. The residents are desperately poor and distrustful of newcomers. The town “library” is a former smokehouse. Suspicious locals regard her as a high falutin “city gal” and an outsider. But Addie learned “Do unto others…” at her mother’s knee and is determined to treat everyone with kindness and respect, including those who are openly antagonistic and insolent.
But when Addie decides to board with Nanny Fay, a sweet elderly woman who’s the center of malicious gossip and an ancient feud, Addie must battle not only poverty and ignorance, but also jealousy and generations-old grudges.
Then the library director departs due to illness. Emmett quits the coal mine to the consternation of Paw and is hired to take on the directorship. After running into each other at and end-of-the-school-year bonfire, both Emmet and Addie are surprised to reconnect in the Boone’s Hollow library. Can their budding romance survive petty jealousies and ancient feuds?
Meanwhile, something dark and sinister is brewing in the town. Violence simmers just beneath the surface. Hostility and malevolence drip off Boone’s Hollow like water from a leaky faucet. Another young packhorse librarian, Bettina, is at its center. Bettina has designs on marrying Emmett to escape her abusive father. And she’s not above scheming and conniving to do it, even if that means running Addie out of town. And who’s trying to destroy the library program?
Boone’s Hollow is a smoldering powder keg.
But as an aspiring author with rock-solid Christian faith, Addie knows books have the power to change people for the better. And so does God’s grace. Can kindness conquer hatred and distrust?
The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow is superbly written and expertly paced. Chapters glide easily one after another. Dialogue is credible and sturdy. Characters are rich and full-bodied. The plot is a masterful blend of mystery, history, and romance that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page.
Rimming with rustic charm, this inspiring historical novel gently demonstrates that “Grace is what God does best.” That kindness matters. And that blueberry jam may indeed taste like happiness.
One of the Season’s Best
Indeed, this lively, uplifting story is reminiscent of Catherine Marshall’s “Christy.” Sure to become a classic in its own right, The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow is easily one of the season’s best. A delightful read!