For All You Bibliophiles Out There....
I have to admit that when I first picked up this book, I wasn't so sure. We can all probably admit that after Jojo Moyes' bestelling title, Me Before You, we kind of lost interest in her books. I'm here to tell you that this book is very different. First of all, this book is historical fiction based on the true story of the WPA Pack Horse Library that really existed in rural Kentucky from 1935-1943. While these characters are fictional, the story of women running a library on horseback through the mountains of Kentucky is real.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt started the Pack Horse Libraries as part of the Works Progress Administration program to bring books to the Appalachian Mountains after the Great Depression. Women were very involved in this project which eventually had 30 different libraries serving an estimated 100,000 people. These women came to be known as the "book women" "book ladies" and the "packsaddle librarians" and the project employed around 200 people.
This is the story of Alice Wright (a fictional character) who lives in England and marries a handsome and wealthy American, Bennett Van Cleve, who is traveling through England with his father on a Christian mission. Bennett's father, an overbearing coal mine owner, is happy to see his son marry a refined British woman and bring her back to their home in rural, small-town Kentucky. Alice, however, thinks she is going to America for an exciting new life. Unfortunately, the reality of living with her overbearing father-in-law in a house that is a shrine to his late wife and Bennett's mother is far from the life she expected.
Soon after she arrives in America, a call goes out from Eleanor Roosevelt looking for women to help with the Pack Horse Library in the area. The Government is willing to pay up to four people to deliver books to people on the mountainside.
It is through this work, that Alice meets a group of women who although different from her, soon become her closest friends. One of them is Margery, an independent, tough woman who prides herself on not needing a man in her life. Their job is not an easy one, riding through the mountains in all kinds of weather. At first, people are skeptical of these books and their carriers, but over time, the book ladies' visits are the highlight of their week.
What the Pack Horse library does over time is to supply people with knowledge, the knowledge that will change their lives. As you can imagine, there were people who were very much against this and fought these women and their mission.
In her newfound freedom, Alice soon finds that her life is not at all turning out the way she would like it to be and she fights against the conventional role of what her husband expects of her.
Most importantly, these women, like me - believed that books created an escape to another world, outside of their freezing cold and remote shacks in the mountains. Books change lives and teach us to reach beyond what is right in front of us for things that are beyond our imaginations.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. It makes me want to go out and conquer the world.
The Giver Of Stars
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Pamela Dorman Books