24 September 2019

Today's Read: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Review of The Giver of Stars by Jojo MoyesWhat would you do if you were stuck across the ocean from your native land living in relative isolation with your new husband, whose wealth did not translate into warmth and understanding? Alice took her cue from the strong women she met in 1930s America and found a way to help both others and herself: She volunteered for the newly formed mobile library, delivering books to rural Kentucky via horseback. Here's how Alice's story begins:

Prologue: December 20, 1937

Listen. Three miles deep in the forest just below Arnott's Ridge , and you're in silence so dense it's like you're wading through it. There's no birdsong past dawn, not even in high summer, and especially not now, with the chill air so thick with moisture that it stills those few leaves clinging gamely to the branches. Among the oak and hickory nothing stirs: wild animals are deep underground, soft pelts intertwined in narrow caves or hollowed-out trunks. The snow is so deep the mule's legs disappear up to his hocks, and every few strides he staggers and snorts suspiciously, checking for loose flints and holes under the endless white. Only the narrow creek below moves confidently, its clear water murmuring and bubbling over the stony bed, headed down toward an endpoint nobody around here has ever seen.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (Pamela Dorman Books, Oct. 8, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: Baileyville, Kentucky; 1930s
  • Circumstances: Alice marries a wealthy American, leaving behind her native England for what she hopes will be a better life. It turns out that small-town Appalachian coal country is as stifling as her new marriage. However, a new Works Progress Administration initiative promoted by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt offers Alice a way out. She becomes a Pack Horse Librarian of Kentucky and delivers books, magazines, and the Bible to rural homes, offering them dreams and solace and company in the hard days of the late Depression. Her husband and father-in-law are furious and set out to shut down the library because books are giving women, children, blacks, and the poor uppity ideas. Can Alice stand up to the obstacles she finds in her her new homeland?
  • Genre & themes: historical fiction; marriage, friendship, literacy, race, class, feminism
  • Why I want to read it: Moyes based her newest novel on true events: Eleanor Roosevelt did indeed start a horseback-based mobile library program as part of the WPA. Women braved the weather and criticism from men and the rich to deliver knowledge to rural Kentuckians. Reviewers praise The Giver of Stars for its vivid characters, rich descriptions of the landscape, and accurate period details. Plus—Jojo Moyes! Of course, I'm going to read this!
  • Extra things to know: Moyes was inspired by a Smithsonian magazine article about this WPA program, especially the photographs (which you can see by clicking through). NPR also had a show about the Pack Horse Library Project. The novel has already been option for a movie. Don't miss the Reader's Guide, available through the Penguin Random House website.
  • Acknowledgments: Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books for the review copy of The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 9/24/19, 7:22 AM  

I liked the contemporary books I read by this author, so I'd try this one even though I don't read much historical fiction.

(Diane) bookchickdi 9/24/19, 7:34 AM  

I love seeing the photo going around on Facebook of these librarians on horseback, now I must read this book.

bermudaonion 9/24/19, 8:22 AM  

I love all things Moyes!

Catherine @ Book Club Librarian 9/24/19, 9:13 AM  

She's a favorite author of mine, and this latest novel is in my reading queue.

rhapsodyinbooks 9/24/19, 9:30 AM  

Me too with loving all things Moyes!

sherry fundin 9/24/19, 12:56 PM  

i haven't seen this book and i do love photography...and librarians. this sounds fabulous
sherry @ fundinmental

Vicki 9/24/19, 2:48 PM  

I've never read this author, but I may be adding this book to my list to read.

Tina 9/24/19, 4:16 PM  

This sounds like one I would like to read. I never tried one of her books - thought they were romance.

Girl Who Reads 9/24/19, 6:42 PM  

That is a very descriptive opening, but if the whole book is that descriptive I might find it tedious to read. But I'm interested in the subject so maybe it will be an audiobook choice.

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/25/19, 8:16 AM  

Great excerpt. Now I definitely want to read this one. I enjoy the author. Thanks for sharing.

Daryl 10/1/19, 11:29 AM  

i love Jojo .. and i look forward to this new book .. thanks

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