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Editorial note: I received a copy of The Giver of Stars in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes is a fictional tale about the real-life Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.
Jojo Moyes is one of the most successful authors around today. She’s a New York Times bestseller and her novel Me Before You became a movie. She’s one of my favorite authors. But when I first read the synopsis about The Giver of Stars, I definitely had doubts. It takes place in Depression-era America (which sounds interesting) but set in the mountains of Kentucky (big pause). I’ll just say it: I’m typically not that into country/rural stories. On a rare occasion, I will check one out and be pleasantly surprised (aka the wonderful Crawdads).
But I decided to read the book because I love Jojo Moyes’ work. That’s the thing about great authors—readers will pick up any book they write. I did the same with Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone. I really wasn’t interested in Alaska in the ’70s but because she’s such a talented writer, I read it and thought it was so well done.
And it turns out, I really liked The Giver of Stars. The story is such an engaging read about these librarians of Kentucky.
I was all set to write a review—until a friend sent me this Buzzfeed article:“Me Before You” Author Jojo Moyes Has Been Accused Of Publishing A Novel With “Alarming Similarities” To Another Author’s Book.
First of all, I encourage you all to read the article in its entirety—don’t do what I did and read half of it on mobile thinking you’ve read the entire story. But the overview is that The Giver of Stars shares startling similarities to a novel published earlier this year, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. Both stories feature the real-life actions of the librarians but star fictional characters. However, the similarities are rather striking.
A blogger read the ARCs of both novels and went to Richardson about it. Richardson told Buzzfeed:
“History is not proprietorial,” Richardson said. But “the disturbing similarities found in Moyes’ book are too many and too specific and quite puzzling,” she added in an email. “None of the similarities found in Moyes’ novel can be chalked up to the realities of history, nor can be found in any historical records, archives or photographs of the packhorse librarian project initiative that I meticulously studied. These fictional devices/ plot points were ones I invented.”
Richardson alerted her publisher, Sourcebooks, about the likeness of both novels. Sourcebooks, who Moyes’ publisher owns a 45% stake in (source: Buzzfeed), decline to pursue legal action. However, they said Richardson can hire a lawyer herself. Problem is: she can’t afford one.
And so here we are, left feeling confused AF about the entire situation.
First, let’s say it was unintentional and just a bizarre consequence. It’s mind blogging that there are ARCs of Troublesome Creek out there and no one from either publishing house brought up the similarities.
I just couldn’t wrap my head around Moyes’ and her team doing this on purpose. You would assume they would be aware of potential fallout? Potentially, it’s a case of perhaps either her or someone on her team read an ARC of Troublesome Creek or they share the same editing group and unintentionally, included aspects in her own story. I know that sounds insane but it does happen. In fact, pretty much every journalism professor I’ve had warned us all about that—don’t read stories within your same beat because of that risk. It truly can occur.
I also wonder if both authors read an article about the real life women and they wrote characters inspired by that.
We will likely never know what truly took place.
I really enjoyed The Giver of Stars—it’s an epic story that reminded me of how I felt after reading The Great Alone and Where The Crawdads Sing. It’s quite the beautiful story about women in history who made a difference, however, rarely get talked about.
So I’m taking the approach that we’re lucky writers are sharing these women’s stories in a fictional environment. So if you’re on the fence, you can read both The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.