Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
As a book woman myself, I suppose it’s not terribly surprising that I gravitate toward reading about people who love reading. So I was absolutely tickled to discover not one, but two books published this year featuring the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. The Pack Horse Library initiative was implemented by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to bring reading materials to people living in the mountains of eastern Kentucky during the depression era years of the 1930s. Librarians rode horses deep into the mountains to deliver to folks who might not have otherwise had access. It was an incredibly popular program, at one point serving 50,000 families.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was published in May 2019. Cussy Mary Carter, a pack horse librarian, also has the distinction of being a “blue”, the last of a family of Kentuckians known for their deep blue skin*. While determined to make a place for herself in a community just as determined to make her an outcast, Cussy Mary finds solace and purpose delivering books, magazines, scrapbooks, and recipes throughout the mountainside.
Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes, was published in October 2019. The main character, Alice, has recently married and moved from her native England to small-town Kentucky. While initially feeling isolated and lonely, she too finds purpose by becoming one of the pack horse librarians, joining 4 other women in her community to bring books to the mountain people.
Both books feature a fascinating look at Kentucky during the 1930s. Each book weighs the impact of the coal mining industry, and the striking levels of poverty that existed at the time. Both authors also handle issues of racism and sexism. There are quite a few similarities in character, setting and plot, but there notable differences**. Each book is worth a read in its own right. Let me know which one you like better!
* Cussy Mary’s family is based on the Blue Fugates of Kentucky, who had methemoglobinemia, a condition that turns the skin blue. (It’s true! Google it!)
**In case you need some controversy, Richardson has accused Moyes of plagiarism [note: spoiler alert].