I was so hesitant to pick up this book. I’ve only read one other book by Moyes, Me Before You, and was absolutely infuriated by it. Not because it was a bad book, mind you; on the contrary, it was incredibly compelling and introduced some characters for whom I came to care deeply. But I felt so emotionally manipulated by the ending that I seriously considered burning my copy. I didn’t, because I consider book burning akin to sacrilege, but in my opinion the ending that Moyes chose to go with felt like it was chosen not because it served the plot, but because it was shocking and memorable. I hated it with my entire being. I don’t believe myself to be a reader who demands happy endings, but the final scenes of Me Before You felt like a right hook when I was expecting a warm handshake or something of the sort.
“… some things are a gift, even if you don’t get to keep them.”
Because I had such a visceral reaction to the one book I’ve read by Moyes, I assumed I would just stay as far away from her work in the future as possible. However, I didn’t anticipate how intrigued I would be by the synopsis of her newest book, The Giver of Stars. I’m a sucker for any story involving characters trying their hardest to get books into the hands of others. I also adore stories set in the backwater locales of my nation, and seeing those who are used to more cosmopolitan surroundings adapt to such a vastly different lifestyle. Rugged, harsh beauty is always compelling, as are female characters who buck societal norms and walk their own path, while forming friendships with other likeminded women and encouraging them to find that same freedom. Based on the synopsis of this book, I would find all of the aforementioned and more within its covers. Despite my traumatic experience with Me Before You, I decided to give Moyes another shot. And I’m so very glad I did. The Giver of Stars was beautiful and funny and moving and more. I loved every page.
“Just a little homesick,” Alice answered. It was the truth, she thought. She just wasn’t sure she had yet been to the place she was homesick for.”
Alice is a British woman who jumped too quickly at the opportunity to start a life away from her judgmental family and married the first pretty face she met. Her husband, the son of a wealthy mine owner in Kentucky, is not everything she hoped he would be, and the feeling seems to be mutual. When a pack horse library is started in the area and requests women who are willing to ride long distances to deliver books to those far from civilization, Alice volunteers immediately. And in this instance, it’s the best decision she has ever made. She finds herself when she dons the mantel of librarian, and accrues a motley group of true friends among her fellow female librarians and others in the far reaches of this community. She and the other librarians face many trials and hardships, but the support they give each other along the way keeps them going.
“A certain kind of man looked at God’s own land, she thought, as she drew closer, and instead of beauty and wonder, all he saw was dollar signs.”
I won’t get into the plot, or even how I felt about the ending. What I will say is that I never felt emotionally manipulated. Every circumstance rang true, and felt like a reasonable plot development instead of a twist included to merely shock readers. Perhaps I judged Moyes too harshly for Me Before You. I found her work in The Giver of Stars to be deep and resonant, while also maintaining fun and friendship in the light of real hardship. While not every decision made sense, and a multitude of problems could have been solved far more quickly if people would just communicate with one another, I didn’t feel like I had been played at any point in the novel.
“There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth had gone and shifted under your feet. But there is always a way around.”
The Giver of Stars felt hopeful even in the darkest of times, which is what Me Before You was missing in my opinion. I really loved it, and I’ll be happy to read more of Moyes’ work if it follows a similar path. It was a wonderful book that I happily recommend to anyone looking for a little romance in a plot that’s not devoid of depth.
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