The Giver of Stars
First, the controversy. Much has been made of the similarity between this book, THE GIVER OF STARS, by Jojo Moyes, and THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK, by Kim Michele Richardson, which came out just five months before this one.
Both books take place in Kentucky and deal with the Pack Horse Library Project, which was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt and tasked with bringing books to remote areas of Appalachia between the years of 1936 and 1943. Oh yes, it’s an unusual subject, and while Ms. Richardson is from Kentucky, Ms. Moyes is British. Those aligned with Ms. Richardson’s book freely use the word “plagiarism.”
I saw none of this. These two books are very different. Whereas Ms. Richardson’s book centers on one librarian, Ms. Moyes’ book centers on five. While Ms. Richardson’s book spotlights the racial discrimination the blue-skinned mountain folk suffer, Ms. Moyes’ book spotlights the sexual discrimination all women in Kentucky faced. Where Ms. Richardson’s book is richest in local detail, Ms. Moyes’ book is richest in characterization.
Very. Different. Books. I loved both.
Honestly, when I started reading THE GIVER OF STARS, I wondered how this British author was going to pull it off. She does, for starters, with a British heroine, who meets and marries a Kentuckian while he and his father are visiting England. After returning to Kentucky with her new husband and his overbearing father, she is horrified to discover how limited her life there will be. She is about to go mad of loneliness when she learns about the Pack Horse Library Project. Through it, she befriends four other women who become her lifeline as her marriage falls apart.
These other women are fascinating, each different, each fighting personal demons, and Ms. Moyes does a skillful job weaving their stories together. Her book is painful at times, the drama high. I was riveted at the end, so invested in these women that I did not – did not – want any of them to be hurt. You’ll have to read the book yourself to see whether they are.
One last word about the controversy. Consider the timing. These books came out within the same five-month window, meaning that both authors were writing theirs at roughly the same time. Honestly? I would call the similarity of subject matter nothing more than unfortunate timing.
As I say, both books are wonderful.