Saturday, May 23, 2020

THE GIVER OF STARS

This novel, The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes published in 2019, was brought to my attention by cousin Pam.

Jojo Moyes is a British journalist and novelist. She has published twelve novels, some of which have been made into movies. She has obviously researched the background for this novel very well.

Southeastern Kentucky, where the story takes place, is mountainous and drained by the Ohio River. It is part of a region known as Appalachia. In colonial times, the area was known as “the bloody ground of Kentucky” because of the frequent and violent confrontations with Indians. As the years passed and Kentucky became a state, its reputation for violence was undiminished. Feuds between families often lasted for generations with dead on both sides.

Kentucky is a coal mining state and wealthy men have been mining for years. Many of the mines were dangerous and tragic collapses occurred in the shafts often with fatalities. Clashes occurred between the mine owners and miners seeking unionization.

The story begins during the Depression and Roosevelt’s “New Deal” efforts like the WPA to ameliorate the hardships. The time was ripe with racism, ignorance, and corruption. What makes this novel unique is that there are five protagonists, all women. Some of were trained librarians. They form a group which came to be known as the “Packhorse Librarians” since the only way to reach their distant readers was by horseback. The experiences of these women provide a fascinating tale.

The intended recipients of the books were small families living in isolated log cabins who subsisted by hunting, gardening, working in a mine, or moonshining.  Some could not read but clamored for more books. The varied reception of the librarians by these families and other challenges they endured makes for exciting reading.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

THE STORYTELLER'S SECRET

I am grateful to cousin Pam Townshend for bringing this book to my attention. Today’s recommendation is a novel entitled The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Badani in 2018. The author, a retired attorney, has a paperback to her credit before publishing this wonderous story.

This tale of love and anguish, loyalty encompassing several generations, is threaded with mystery. The protagonist Jaya, a young journalist, is living in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Patrick, an attorney. Her happiness begins to fade when her first pregnancy ends with a miscarriage. She becomes increasingly miserable when she endures two more miscarriages. She is desolate. Deserted by Patrick and finding little solace with her mother, she decides to go to India to accept a gift intended for her mother from her dying father.  In India Jaya is introduced to a culture thousands of years old. She meets Ravi, an untouchable, who had been elevated to be a family servant by her grandmother. Ravi turns out to be her best source of family history. She gets perspective on her life through the story of Amisha, her maternal grandmother, as related by Ravi. Jaya learns that Amisha made important decisions that affected future generations.

In addition to being an exciting story, this book will give the reader some insight into Indian life under the strict control of the British occupation called the Raj.