Monday, October 21, 2019

Book Review: "The Giver of Stars" by Jojo Moyes

"Just a little homesick, Alice answered. It was the truth, she thought. She just wasn't sure she had yet been to the place she was homesick for."

Alice Wright was suffocating in England. Her parents always treated her as an embarrassment, seeing her "emotional" nature and her free spirit as a definite liability, something which needed to be quashed. When she met handsome athlete Bennett Van Cleve, who is visiting England with his father, their whirlwind romance surprises Alice yet gives her a reason to escape her stifling life.

She quickly realizes that living in rural Kentucky in the midst of the Depression isn't much more exciting. She stands out like a sore thumb in their small town, and she and Bennett live with his domineering father, who sticks his nose into everything that goes on in his household. Alice isn't interested in attending teas with the other women, many of whom hate her for landing a man like Bennett, nor is she content simply to sit at home and be idle.

When Eleanor Roosevelt's traveling library program is brought to their town, and volunteers are sought, Alice quickly signs up, much to the chagrin of Bennett and his father. She strikes up a friendship with the library's leader, Margery O'Hare, a tough-talking, independent woman who was the daughter of the town's most notorious moonshiner, and someone who will never let anyone—especially a man—tell her what to do.

After recruiting other women to help, the library program becomes something many residents value, not only for the books, but for the companionship these so-called packhorse librarians bring. But not everyone in the area approves—some, including Bennett’s father—don’t like the "ideas" that these books put in women’s heads.

As Alice’s marriage continues to disintegrate, the library and her fellow librarians become her only source of comfort. But things are becoming more fragile at home and in town, and the librarians, particularly Margery, find themselves in danger and the library is at risk.

This was a fascinating and poignant story that I raced through. It’s funny, I am not much of a fan of historical fiction yet I’ve now read two of Moyes’ historical novels and loved both. There is mystery, romance, emotion, injustice—enough to get nearly anyone fully immersed.

I really do love the way Moyes writes, and these characters felt so real to me. I’m so glad I read this.

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