The Giver of Stars

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

Very enjoyable story about the packhorse librarians in Kentucky in the 1930s. Love the strong female characters in this book.
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The courage and fortitude of these feisty woman really inspired me and of course the librarian in me just loved reading about the beginnings of libraries and their importance.
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Interesting read. After I read this book I then read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.  Both books center around rural book delivery but the second had a more interesting storyline.
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Such a beautifully written book and story and such a different side from Jojo Moyes! A beautiful story of women finding themselves in rural Kentucky and helping to spread the idea of knowledge through their packhorse library.
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I really enjoyed this novel about the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians who took library books and magazines on horseback out to rural mountainous areas in Kentucky.  She does a great job of depicting a small mining community in Kentucky during the 1930s.  Moyes also has great character development - I felt like I knew each of her characters even the minor ones.  It is a delightful read about friendship and love stories, prejudice and tolerance, disasters and rescues, murder and courtroom drama - and the power of the written word. It has the feel of being written to be portrayed on the movie screen.  I rate it up there with my favorite historical fiction - worth the read!
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I really, really enjoyed this! I’ve read several novels by Moyes and she has yet to disappoint. The writing was so good that I actually felt like I was traversing the mountains right alongside these ladies. I was emotionally invested in this... one minute giggling the next minute I was enraged.  A very satisfying read that I think will appeal to most historical fiction lovers. 4.5 stars.
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3.5 stars

I honestly enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would! Historical Fiction is always a genre that I either hate or love. I really haven't read any novels set during the Depression-era, which I thought was a unique choice from Moyes that, in my opinion, really paid off.

Thank you to Penguin Group Viking and NetGalley for the eARC!
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I really enjoyed this book. Was pleasantly surprised as I was expecting it to be like her other books. This is the second book about female librarians in the mountains. The descriptions of the trails and the treatment of women is interesting.
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This book was riveting, captivating, and moving!  I devoured it and have already recommended it to several people.  The characters are rich and vibrant, and I felt like I was right there with them.  Their devotion and sacrifice to deliver books was remarkable, and the impact books made on the lives of the recipients was inspiring.  A fantastic book!
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This story began slowly but did it ever build up before it ended. I reached a point where I could not put it down. I had to know how it was going to end. The 5 women who were the Packhorse Library in the remote area of Kentucky depicted what their lives were like in the 1930's. There was poverty, abuse, conflicts, mining , lack of education for girls as they were needed at home, death, and most of all there was love. Read this and discover how far women have come from that time and place.
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JoJo Moyes writes a novel based around the WPA horseback librarians of Kentucky who delivered books in the mountains from the 1930s to 1943. Mountain culture, mining, family feuds - it's all in here! And this is a region of the world I know and love.

This came out October 8th and I'm shamefully just now reading it, but I'm glad I did. It's a nice backstory for my profession especially if they also played the additional roles Moyes includes in the novel (which I will leave the reader to discover.) 

Positive representation of unmarried women and disability (which I know the author was criticized for in a previous novel.)
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An insightful epic historical drama set in US Depression era in Kentucky and the Appalachians. . A young Englishwoman, Alice Wright, marries the handsome son of a traveling Kentuckian man doing a European tour and looks forward to her new life in America. What Alice quickly realizes is that the romantic life she thought she had married into was not as it seemed. Her husband seems to not be interested in her and as she is kept in the dark about many things in the household, including why the maid seems to dislike her so, she searches for and finds meaning in being one of the first women to deliver books to rural households in Kentucky. She finds true friendship in Margery O'Hare, an unconventional woman with a complicated past, as she boldly volunteers herself for the library.  Ms. Moyes'  novel shows how books can change people's lives in the most simple and most complex ways.
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I'm a fan of JoJo Moyes and I was intrigued by the beginning of The Giver of Stars. Unfortunately, due to some glitch (I did follow up with NetGalley), only the prologue and first chapter were included in the ARC. However, what I have read so far was very engaging and I look forward to reading this book in its entirely when it is available either by ARC or after its release. As a librarian, the story behind a horseback lending library is intriguing; I have seen information about these types of libraries previously but I had not known that they were part of a federal government WPA initiative. This looks like it has great potential for book clubs.
EDIT: I was finally able to read the entire ARC...snafu was fixed! I truly enjoyed the book but have some criticisms. The story about the library initiative is terrific! The setting and historical context are wonderful. The storylines of the characters are less engaging. I found that the main romance plot (Alice/Bennet)  somewhat dragged for me and would have benefited from even greater nuance. The plot device of making Bennett sexually impotent with Alice and then hinting once at whether he was gay was cringeworthy. Why not actually make him gay? That might have been a better plot line for conflict. I found the other women's story lines, although perhaps secondary, more engaging. Note to the proofreader: "woah" is not a word...look it up!
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Another great story from Jojo Moyes.  A lot of research went into the historical details on these librarians.  The characters were well developed and the plot was very intriguing. A good book club selection.
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An inspiring story of love, friendship, and literature, based on true events. What a great turn in Moyes's career!
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I didn't know anything about the packhorse librarians before reading this novel. This WPA program makes a great backdrop for a novel, and Moyes has created a compelling narrative. There is a lot of tension in the plot, and the characters are well developed (although I wish Beth was more fully fleshed out).

You might not think that there would be a lot of action in a story about women riding out to remote households in Kentucky to distribute books. There is plenty here, though, in the town's hostility to the program, a predatory mine owner, town politics, and complicated relationships between the characters. Moyes weaves together a multi-layered narrative that has a slightly too pat ending, but that is satisfying nevertheless.
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Trigger Warning: Abuse, Assault, Attempted Rape, Prison, Incest

Six very different women come together as librarians for the newly established WPA Pack Horse Librarian program, and find their lives changed in ways they couldn't even imagine.

"Library just exists so people can try a bit of reading. Maybe learn a little if they find they have a liking for it."


I am astonished to have loved this as much as I did, but I think that's because I was leery of Me Before You and absolutely hated with the passion of a blue star the much-lauded (why tho??) The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

But as soon as I started reading, I was swept up by the intertwined stories of Alice, Margery, Izzy, Beth, Sophia, Kathleen and the people of Baileyville. I was captivated, immersed and in love with these women (ok, and Mrs. Brady and pretty much every woman in the book besides Peggy and Annie) and how the lives of the mountain people of Kentucky came to life.

Alice was the picture of the lost-in-space English rose, who had had her feathers clipped and her body stuffed into a cage (okay, I'm mixing metaphors here, bear with me). In marrying Bennett, she feels she escaped her cloistering family, but finds she escaped one cage only to enter another. I felt so strongly for her, stuffed into a marriage where the ghosts of the past literally haunted every minute of their lives. Talk about turning a house into a mausoleum. Yeesh. Van Cleve Sr was a dick and a half.

Alice was a bit insufferable at first, but as she grew out of her foppish ways and learned to work hard and care for her people, I fell in love. She was kind, caring and connected with a tight-knit, isolating community, even if she found solace in the isolated peoples of the hills instead of the gossiping biddies of the town. And Fred is the perfect man, just in general.

Margery started off as my favorite, however, although over the course of the book I loved her less and less? But also, I understood why she acted the way she did, because what happened to her would have ground down any spirit, particularly that of a woman who had lived her life shamelessly, unconventionally and proudly. I did like her relationship with Sven.

Kathleen, Izzy and Beth were minor characters despite being the other three librarians (technically Mrs. Brady kinda counts too), but while I cared for them, their character arcs didn't features as heavily. They didn't really have points of view, but I did love Kathleen's knowledge of every holler and road and person, Izzy's determination when someone just gave her a chance, and Beth's general boisterous cheer.

Sophia, however, was far and away my favorite of the women. Although technically not a librarian, she was the only actual librarian of the lot. I was so upset that she wasn't able to ride (not that she'd probably want to), but I did like how sensitively and upfront Moyes tackled racism in the novel, highlighting the very real dangers and realities of life as a person of color in rural 1930s Kentucky. And how an educated woman of color might feel stifled, scared and angry at having her own wings clipped. Anywho, I love a woman who is dedicated to cleanliness and organization (probably because I lack both things in spades), and someone who had totally take a hint to save her friends and protect them, even at risk to herself.

"From what I understand it's just a bunch of girls on horses taking recipe cards here and there/blockquote>

The above quote was from one of the many naysayers of the library, who constantly minimized or exaggerated what the women were doing to further their own agendas (namely, taking the library away).

One of the many things I loved about this book was that it showed that the power of libraries is not just books. Books are one thing, but what libraries offer is so much more.

They are bringers of knowledge, of entertainment, of power and learning. And mostly they are connectors and builders of community. The pack horse librarians literally changed the dynamics of their small society, much to the detriment of those who realized that it was to their benefit to keep people ignorant, isolated and in the dark.

And ultimately, that's was libraries are today. Not just books, but connectors to more.

My final thought on this wonderful story is of the concept of power. That women have power, and don't have to be crushed under the superior strength of men and the weight of patriarchal society. That words and knowledge and strength have a weight of their own. And that no matter how beaten down you are, or how badly you've been ground down, there is still hope. Sometimes you just need to take the hard way out in order to free yourself.

"There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet. But you are never trapped, Alice. You hear me? There is always a way around."


I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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This book was amazing! We enter the lives of the WPA Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. The friendships the form through the work the do changes all their lives. It was such an enlightening book and a joy to read.
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Absolutely loved this book. I thought it was a total departure from the author's previous books (which I enjoyed). I enjoy the author's character development and story line. I enjoy historical fiction and this book did not disappoint.  I've recommended it dozens of times to family and friends.
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I enjoyed this book so much that I read it in two evenings!
The WPA Packhorse Librarians were a dedicated group of women who battled not only severe weather conditions and rugged terrain to deliver library books to people during the Depression, but they battled public opinion as well. Many people felt that women were best suited to household duties, and that q group of working women threatened the moral order.
Ms. Moyes has crafted a beautiful story that combines historical detail  with a delightful blend of fictional characters. Five stars!
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