"The Giver of Stars" by Jojo Moyes, Pamela Dorman Books, 2019, 399 pages
Set in Kentucky during the worst of the Depression, the Works Progress Administration, sponsored by President Roosevelt, tried to create jobs for women who had no skills nor any way to hold a job. These small book collections became a lifeline to desperately poor families who never left home.
Margery was offered the position of recruiting women as Horseback Librarians of Kentucky. Started by a character in the neighborhood to provide employment for women to run mobile libraries that reached even into the mountain regions of Kentucky during the Great Depression. Such an interesting time of women’s history in the early 20th century.
Jojo Moyes uses an easy writing style, offering beautiful descriptions of the Kentucky mountains. The hills and ravines have an unexpected effect on the women who attempt to deliver books to the families who think they don’t want to learn to read.
Delivering books to the back country by mule or horse doesn't seem appropriate for Alice. She's a high-class girl from England who makes a tragically bad marriage but finds fulfillment in sharing literature with the mountain population. Her new husband is totally under his father’s control and doesn't defend her. Together they make her life a nightmare.
When a murder occurs on a high mountain path, Margery is accused since it happened on her delivery route. The townspeople who opposed the library insisted it offered a reason to get rid of the library and books. The trial and courtroom scenes show a picture of backwoods injustice during early 20th century.
Moyes draws such compelling characters with strong personalities, quite different from her previous books of contemporary romance. She captures the magic of novels that bring communities together. She portrays women’s friendships and a few good men willing to defend the women.
The four women dare to support one another, which leads into danger. The story breaks new ground with this historical novel and may be her best as we read incidents of drama, humor and heartache but mostly love.