Have you ever been excited to read a book for a long time, but when you finally get it, you’re not? I found The Giver of Stars in January when I was looking for a book that takes place outside. This was probably one of my most anticipated reads because I’ve heard so much about Jojo Moyes. But when I got it, I was like, a book set in Depression Era America that takes place in Kentucky, why did I pick this? Most likely because it’s about friendship, adventure, and romance, but I was skeptical about whether I would end up enjoying it. Luckily, I did!
- Name: The Giver of Stars
- Author: Jojo Moyes
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Page count: 388
- Published: October 3, 2021
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.
The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.
What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.
Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic–a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.
Margery’s backstory is heart-breaking and explains why she struggles with letting people in. She’s such a compelling character and I seriously loved her. Watching her develop friendships with the librarians and be vulnerable with her partner Sven was so sweet. Her one fault was how stubborn she was, but it was easy to see where she was coming from, so I couldn’t hold it against her.
Alice doesn’t feel like she belongs in England and when she starts over in Kentucky, she finds that things aren’t any easier. I felt bad for her because she was duped into a bad marriage and she doesn’t have anyone to lean on in the beginning. Watching her navigate small-town Kentucky was honestly really funny. She’s an outsider, which doesn’t make it easy for her to deliver books to her gun-toting neighbours. Luckily, she doesn’t get hurt, and I was impressed with her growth and ability to stand up for herself.
If it weren’t for the packhorse librarians, Lizzie wouldn’t have realized what she’s capable of. I loved watching her come out of her shell and find her purpose. Beth has her own awakening and realizes that she doesn’t want to be constrained by her gender. As a woman of colour, Sophia takes a risk by working in the library, and I was so nervous for her. I was attached to all three of them and the story wouldn’t have been the same without them.
There are evil men in this story and ones who are as good as prince charming. Alice’s father-in-law is an absolute monster and Jojo Moyes did an awesome job of making me hate him. Sven and Fred on the other hand are the sweetest men who treat women the way they should be treated.
The setting was developed very well, especially in terms of the people and their way of life. The way that Margery was at odds with the conservative values of the townspeople was palpable. The writing makes the 1930s time period very evident. Despite this, I empathized with the librarians and cheered for them in their fight against society’s strict gender roles. The slow to medium pacing of the plot matches the slow-paced lifestyles of the characters, but I never found myself getting bored.
The friendship that the librarians develop is beyond heartwarming. All of them are outsiders and watching them come together made me happy. They support each other and over time they grow stronger as women. Platonic and romantic love drive the characters and help them persevere under difficult circumstances. From brutal weather to a murder trial—which I wasn’t expecting at all—the librarians and the men in their lives stick together. I say men in their lives because Alice and Margery’s relationship statuses are complicated, to say the least.
The writing surprised me. I thought it might be dry because of the time period, but that wasn’t the case. Life is slow in small-town Kentucky, but Jojo Moyes manages to turn even the most mundane aspects into something interesting. Her prose isn’t overwritten, and it balances drama and humour, which helped hold my attention.
The Giver of Stars is a solid four-star book. I appreciate how it taught me about history in an entertaining way. Watching the traveling library make a difference reminded me of the power of books. I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did, but the themes of love and friendship were powerful. Jojo Moyes writes her villains and her heroes equally well, and all of her characters add something unique to the plot. The only negative thing I have to say is that the ending felt a bit rushed and wrapped everything up too nicely. Either way, if you like historical fiction, this book is worth the read.