Saturday, May 23, 2020


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 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.

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