Read by Julia Whelan
Published October 2019 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook from my local library
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.
I’ve been a fan of Moyes’ since I read Me Before You many years ago. I’m still waiting for her to write the book that lives up to that one, though. Which is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed her book (I am, as I noted, a fan), it’s just that nothing has packed the emotional punch that book had. What made Me Before You so gut wrenching was the fact that you saw a terrible thing about to happen, you hoped and hoped it wouldn’t, and then it did. And it still broke your heart. So I suppose what I’m wishing for is for Moyes’ to kill off a dearly loved character. Except as I’m reading her books, I’m so hoping she won’t. She really can’t win.
But back to this book:
- The feminist in me loved the five women in this book, all of whom threw off traditional roles to be a part of the pack horse library. Alice defies her father-in-law, Izzy defies her parents, and Margery refuses to marry the man she loves, believing there is no reason to change a thing that is working for both of them. The feminist in me had a harder time with the idea that two of the women ended up married because, of course, you can’t be happy unless you’re married. The romantic in me sort of told the feminist in me to get over it, though.
- There’s a big buildup regarding the mine owned by Alice’s father-in-law and the conflict between the union trying to gain a foothold and the muscle hired to stop them. Throughout much of the book, I thought this was going to end up playing a bigger part in the story but it sort of fizzles out. I had mixed feelings about that. If it had ended up being more, it would have taken away from the story Moyes wanted to tell. But it also felt like if she was going to put all of it in the book, something more should have come of it.
- Still, those issues with the mines did play a big part in what happened to Margery, even if the conflict itself never played out, so what do I know?
- Julia Whelan does a great job reading this book. It’s the second book I’ve listened to her read and I’m a fan.
- I have mixed feelings about the resolution. There’s a part of me that felt like it was not believable and all a little too easy. On the other hand, I’m not sure how else things could have played out.
- I loved the relationship between these women. They come from very different backgrounds and all bring baggage to the table. Moyes wisely doesn’t make their relationships all picture perfect. There are sometimes spats, there are sometimes hurt feelings, sometimes someone says the wrong thing. But the bond between these women, which begins just as a bond between coworkers, develops into something much more. They stand up for each other, they encourage each other, and they support one another. Girl goals!
- I loved learning about the Packhorse Library and the effort these women put into helping their communities. Of course, I had to hit the internet to learn more. What’s more, I’ve got two more books lined up to read as well.
- Jojo Moyes always does a marvelous job of making the time and place settings of her books come alive and this book is no exception. I really could picture those mountains and that town nestled down between them.
Despite some misgivings, I really did enjoy this book a lot and raced through it. I only wish I had a copy to pass along to my mom who I think will really enjoy this book!