This spring, several members of the library team decided to read and discuss a book together. Our first pick was The Giver Of Stars, a recently released historical fiction book by Jojo Moyes. It’s about a group of women who become “packhorse librarians” in rural 1930s America.
Mild spoilers ahead.
What The Giver Of Stars gets right: Margery, one of the main characters and the leader of the packhorse librarians, is a delight to read about. She’s strong-willed, stubborn, and perfectly at ease even in dangerous situations. She’s also hard-set against marriage, even marrying the man she loves, which makes for an interesting battle of wills.
The Giver Of Stars doesn’t shy away from social issues such as racism, sexism, and anti-intellectualism. The women have to fight these issues almost daily to do their jobs. However, the story of the women who are willing to make a difference is an inspiring one. While the book acknowledges their struggles, they never succumb to them.
What The Giver Of Stars gets wrong: The pacing is a little slow. I wasn’t always sure where the book was going, since it seemed to be meandering around a lot. There are a few moments where you’ll need to suspend your disbelief as well (most people in the 1930s were not as progressive as these ladies by a long shot), but keep in mind that this a fictional account of history told through a modern lens.
There are a few scenes where I think the old art of “show, don’t tell” would have been helpful, too. Readers don’t need a narration to explain how a man feels if he’s violently chopping wood right after a hard conversation. We get it!
Also, did people really love coffee this much in the 1930s? Was it even readily available for rural communities? There’s enough history to determine that coffee was slowly becoming a commodity in the 30s, but I’m a little iffy on how much coffee is beloved in this book. People in the 30s were in the first wave of coffee timeline (Folgers and Maxwell House were founded in the mid-1800s), so I have to wonder at the quality they were getting. First wave coffee was meant to be a helpful, fueling substance, not an all-encompassing need like second wave coffee (Starbucks, Caribou Coffee) set out to develop and capitalize on.
Who should read The Giver Of Stars: Fans of historical fiction, women’s history, nature, libraries, and books.
Who shouldn’t read The Giver Of Stars: Readers looking for something more fast-paced and action-packed. This book is more about developing its setting and characters.
Content note: A few slightly suggestive scenes, mild violence. One married couple has some trouble with intimacy, and this issue is addressed several times.