The Giver of Stars – 4 Star Review

“…some things are a gift, even if you don’t get to keep them.”

-Fred, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

The Giver of Stars was one of our monthly picks in MBC on Facebook for February. I originally had only heard of this novel a few months back when a Buzzfeed article released claiming that Jojo Moyes had plagiarized this book from another: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. While I do plan on reading Book Woman to compare and see how much weight these accusations have, I will say that they did not hinder my review of this book.

The Giver of Stars focuses on a specific event in the 1930’s when President Roosevelt initiated a project called The Pack Horse Library Project under the Works Progress Administration. It was said at the time that almost one-third of Americans did not have reasonable access to public library materials. The goal of this project was to allow more remote areas, such as the residents in the rural Appalachian Kentucky location featured in this book, access to library materials to help boost education.

We follow a woman named Alice who lives and meets her Kentucky-native husband, Bennett, in Europe. They quickly marry and she is carted off to a whole new world. She imagines living the city life in America, but her dreams are quickly dashed. Alice signs up to work for the pack horse librarians as a way to get out of the house and away from her ill-tempered father-in-law who lives with them. The book follows Alice as she forms new friendships through the other librarian ladies and her troubles with her father-in-law and husband who suddenly acts repulsed by the sight of Alice. This book felt accurate for the time period it is set it. It deals with issues such as inequality of races and the idea that women are the “lesser sex”. I do love a good Southern historical read, as I think the stories are often much deeper and heart-breaking because of the travesties of our past. I loved the character Margaret. She is hard on the outside and takes no gruff with a soft, loving center. Her story line was the most interesting to me and probably the most “complete”. By the end I was much more invested in what was happening to Margaret than I was Alice.

I knocked a star from this book because it felt like there were a few undeveloped or abandoned plot lines. There is a build up with Alice’s horrible father-in-law who owns a mining company but there is not really a resolution with it. A small, secondary plot-line is always welcome in books but when it’s not complete, it just gets in the way. I also have a huge issue with Alice’s husband, Bennett. I talked to a few of my MBC mods who read this book also and we have come to the agreement that Bennett is gay. Moyes gives us a lot of strange situations with him and another character briefly alludes to it, but nothing ever comes about it. Why even go in that direction to not bring it up again or go anywhere with it? Odd. It could have been a great addition to the story given the time period.

I did not know anything about the pack horse librarians before this novel, it was a very interesting and the program had the best intentions: to get people to read and to educate children and adults alike. I would definitely recommend this to others and to you, dear reader! Also, that book cover is beautiful (I’m a book cover snob, I admit it)!

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