The Giver of Stars (Viking, 2019)
By Jojo Moyes
To seek knowledge is to expand your own universe.
Kimber here. Mom says she’s sometimes “biased” about certain books. I’m not sure what that means. But she says it applies to most any book that combines two of the best things in the world (besides bacon and more bacon): historical fiction and reading/literacy/libraries. (Okay. That’s four. But you get the picture, right?)
Well. Mom tends to love that stuff even before she opens the cover. So when someone suggested an historical fiction book about lady “Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky” serving destitute, isolated families in rural Kentucky during the Depression, Mom was like, “Oh yeah. Love this thing already.”
But Mom’s expectations are high. Here’s more from the Book Bias Queen:
The Book Ladies
“The book ladies” of rural Kentucky are five ladies. They include Alice Van Cleve, a lonely English woman trapped in a loveless marriage to an American mining baron. She married Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape a dull-as-dirt life in England. She winds up in Kentucky. But life in a small mining town isn’t exactly a bowl of cherries, either. So when she hears about a team of women that’s forming to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s traveling library, Alice jumps in.
It’s not long before Alice and the rest of the pack horse librarians run amok of the town jerk and mining baron Geoffrey Van Cleve. Rich and powerful, Van Cleve the elder is used to getting what he wants. And he wants a shrinking violet of a daughter-in-law and the traveling library shut down.
There’s also a strapping mine fire chief named Sven. A quiet widower, Fred. The formidable Mrs. Brady. Margery O’Hare, who’s practically a force of nature and daughter of a local moonshiner. An indomitable mule named Charley. And a team of resolute women who are determined to plow new ground, casting off stifling expectations and limitations in the process. Watching each character grow and develop throughout the pages of this 387-page book is a delight. (Note: While Mom does not necessarily agree with everything presented in this book, she does agree that it’s an excellent read. In fact, she read it cover-to-cover in one sitting.)
Tightly written and eminently engaging, The Giver of Stars has more plot twists than the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. Sweeping in its grandeur and epic scope, this thoroughly engrossing novel is based on a true story from American history. It’s a wonderful story of love, loyalty, and friendship, ably capturing how opening a new book is like coming home. (From whence does the title come? Hint: Amy Lowell.)
Some things are a gift, even if you don’t get to keep them.
Powerful and poignant, The Giver of Stars is a big read. It’s a keeper. Indeed, anyone who’s ever wanted to expand their own universe and cherishes books like their next breath will love The Giver of Stars. Mom did. (And she sets a pretty high bar!)
Historical fiction at its finest. A triumph!