Alice seems to have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. In her native England during the Great Depression, she is bored and unhappy, and when she meets a handsome American man named Bennett, she quickly marries him to escape. When they relocate to his home state of Kentucky, she expects a well-to-do urban life, centered perhaps in Lexington. Instead, she finds herself in remote Eastern Kentucky, in impoverished coal country, trapped in an unhappy marriage. When the local pack horse library needs volunteers, Alice signs up, mainly as an excuse to get out of her house and away from her husband and father-in-law. At first, Alice is horrified by the rough people she encounters on her route, but she soon falls in love with her work, the people, and the mountains. Still, the solace she finds in work does nothing to ease her troubles at home. Complications ensue. . . .
I’d never read a JoJo Moyes book before now. Mary-Esther suggested that I try The Giver of Stars (Moyes’s newest book) since I enjoy historical fiction, and it is about libraries. I am so glad I did–I really enjoyed this book! Thanks as always for the wonderful suggestion, Mary-Esther! 🙂
Moyes creates a wonderfully evocative depiction of rural Appalachia during the Great Depression, and her characters are interesting and likable. The book is highly readable–I kept telling myself I was only going to read a chapter a night and then reading far more each time I picked it up–and a celebration of friendship and triumph over adversity. The backdrop of the pack horse libraries is also a fascinating glimpse at a historical event that deserves to be better known.
My favorite aspect of the story, though, was the depiction of libraries and their role in the community. Moyes perfectly captures the camaraderie among the librarians, as well as the challenges and rewards of library work and the benefits they provide to their local community. The role libraries play has, admittedly, been on my mind a lot recently due to our work on planning for a new library facility, but I think Moyes’s book provides a wonderful argument for the role of libraries in any community and does so without seeming didactic.
If you’re in search for an ultimately heartwarming work of historical fiction for the holidays, definitely give this one a try. However, be forewarned, it’s a really popular read right now at the library, so you might end up on a wait list for the time being!
*Ebook and audiobook also available on Libby.
Recommended for those who enjoy the works of Liane Moriarty.
Are you a JoJo Moyes fan? What’s your favorite fictional book about a library? What are you reading for the holidays? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog to find more information on this item or to place a hold.