Reviews for The Giver Of Stars

by Jojo Moyes

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She's just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback libraryan initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library's leader, Margery. Margery doesn't care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn't believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn't care for Alice's job or Margery's lifestyle, and he'll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.A love letter to the power of books and friendship. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
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An adventure story grounded in female competence and mutual support, and an obvious affection for the popular literature of the early 20th century, give this Depression-era novel plenty of appeal. Alice Wright escapes her stifling English family by marrying an American, but this choice leads to further misery in the rural Kentucky household of her unaffectionate husband and his domineering father, the owner of the local coal mine. She finds respite in riding with the women of the new WPA-sponsored horseback library. She’s sustained by her friendships with the other women, especially the brash, self-sufficient Margery O’Hare, and the appreciation of the isolated families she serves. But powerful men in Baileyville oppose the library, as it employs a black woman, influences women and children’s minds with fiction, encourages previously illiterate families to defend their rights against encroaching mining companies, and teaches women about intimacy through a secret copy of Married Love. Moyes (Still Me) stereotypes her antagonists a bit, but provides tremendous warmth among the librarians and centers their perspectives thoroughly. There’s plenty of drama, but the reader’s lasting impression is one of love. Agent: Sheila Crowley, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Oct.)


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Moyes's 16th book (after Still Me) takes place in Depression-era Kentucky, where bride Alice Wright is trying to fit in. This is not how she imagined her glamorous American life when she left her native England. Her new husband, Bennett Van Cleve, is ruled by his overbearing father, and even the family housekeeper views her with suspicion. When a local woman asks for volunteers for the WPA Packhorse Library, Alice steps forward, despite the objections of her father-in-law and husband. From Marge, the fiercely independent and unconventional woman who runs the library, to Sophia, who left the Louisville "colored" library to care for her brother, the story of these packhorse librarians unfolds as they bring books to the people living in poverty in the Appalachian hills and fight the prejudice against women and African Americans that may result in the library being closed. A murder and unrest among the coal miners add to a tale of a fascinating and difficult time. VERDICT Rich in history, with well-developed characters and a strong sense of place, this book will fit well in any library's fiction collection. For fans of Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants or Catherine Marshall's Christy. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/19; "Fall Fireworks," LJ 8/19.]—Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

When Alice marries the charming, athletic Bennett Van Cleve, she imagines bustling city life in America, so unlike her staid English existence. But when she gets to Baileyville, Kentucky, she finds her peers are suspicious and gossipy, her house is a shrine to Bennett's late mother, and her father-in-law sleeps in the room next door. Desperate and lonely, she surprises herself by volunteering to help with the new Baileyville Packhorse Library, run by the indomitable Margery O'Hare, who has an unsavory reputation as a moonshiner's daughter, though no one dares say it to her face. Of course, spreading education and information, especially to the womenfolk, threatens the man who runs the coal mine Alice's father-in-law. Readers familiar with Moyes' very British narrative voice will be thrilled that she translates seamlessly into Appalachian, and she weaves a tough sort of protofeminism in with labor unrest and romance in this story that doesn't stereotype but lifts up the work of the women who run the library and the lives they impact. There are tears and laughter in this homage to the power of reading and the strength of community.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Moyes is a must-read for women's fiction fans, and her newest historical tale is already in development with Universal Pictures.--Susan Maguire Copyright 2010 Booklist

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