The Giver of Stars Book Club Questions and Recipe
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Giver of Stars, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Giver of Stars follows a group of Pack Horse Librarians in Kentucky in the 1930s. Pack Horse Librarians were part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and a special project of Eleanor Roosevelt. They carried books via horseback to some of the most rural and remote areas of Kentucky.
The novel is permeated with friendship, primarily centered around five librarians and the events that happen to them. If you don’t know, Jojo Moyes is English, but if you do, you might be wondering how she pulled off writing a novel about rural Kentucky. The main character, Alice, is an English-born and bred lady who marries a native Kentuckian and we follow her as she moves to Kentucky and ultimately joins the Pack Horse Librarians.
Since Moyes started out as a romance author, you won’t be surprised to find a good deal of romance in the novel as well. The romance is clean and you won’t find any on-page sex. But romance isn’t the primary driving force of the novel, there are high stakes and some life-threatening situations for almost all of the characters that will keep you turning pages.
I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the book and expect it to be another hit by Moyes on the scale of Me Before You. That said, I cannot continue without addressing the fact that there has been some controversy regarding the similarity to another book about Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which I am also featuring. However, I do not think you should form an opinion before reading both books.
I’m addressing the controversy surrounding the two novels with a completely separate post where I will compare them thoroughly and give book club questions and a recipe if your book club wants to discuss them both at the same time.
The Giver of Stars is a wonderful novel about unlikely friendship and overcoming odds that is reminiscent of books like The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. If your book club decides to read it–and I think you should–I’ve provided book club questions and a recipe, below. So, for food ideas and more, keep reading!
Here’s a brief summary of The Giver of Stars:
Hoping to escape her life of suffocating expectations in England, Alice marries the handsome Kentuckian Bennett Van Cleve. The honeymoon is cut short when she finds herself in an equally stifling situation under the watchful eye of Bennett’s strict father in a small and secluded Kentucky town. When the chance arises to join the Pack Horse Library, Alice steps forward despite Van Cleve’s disapproval. There, she meets independent Margery O’Hare, who encourages Alice to stand up for herself and fight for true love. The bond they form with each other and the other three Pack Horse Librarians is tested in unforgettable ways as they journey through the dangers of the Appalachian mountains to bring its hardscrabble residents hope through books.
For The Giver of Stars recipe:
The Giver of Stars is a very plot-driven novel, so there aren’t alot of instances where the characters are still enough to linger over a meal. There are several meals at the Van Cleve’s, but the food is either not mentioned or the scene is not pleasant. I try to choose food pairings that evoke a pleasant memory of the book.
Still, there are a few food ideas from the pages of The Giver of Stars:
- Honey Apple Cake –Alice’s first ride alone to Kathleen Bligh’s house – Chapter 4
- Stuffed turkey, Swedish cinnamon cookies, Dundee cake, and French red wine – Christmas with Margery, Sven, Alice, and Fred – Chapter 12
- Fried chicken – Margery dumps mud on Van Cleve’s dinner – Chapter 18
- Cornbread and pound cake – Alice takes treats to Deputy Dulles to see Margery in prison – Chapter 22
I chose to feature an apple cake with honey bourbon glaze, based on the scene where Alice visits Kathleen’s house alone for the first time. A friendship between Alice and Kathleen forms. Later, Kathleen even fills in as a Pack Horse Librarian when Margery can’t ride.
This cake is a spice cake. It sits somewhere between a nut bread and a pound cake and it’s chock full of cinnamon spice, pecans, and apples. Drizzled with a sweet bourbon glaze, it would pair perfectly with a warm cup of coffee and a good discussion.
Baking it in a bundt pan gives the cake a good caramelly crust with a soft center. And the spice in the bourbon brings out the spice in the cake. There’s not much you can’t love!
If you are looking for food ideas for The Giver of Stars, I think your book club will be happy to try Apple Cake with Bourbon Honey Glaze!
The Giver of Stars Apple Cake with Bourbon Honey Glaze
- Bundt pan
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup pecans chopped
- 3 eggs
- 1 ¼ cup oil
- 3 cups apples 3-4 apples
Bourbon Honey Glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp bourbon
For the Apple Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Peel, core, and dice the apples.
- In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, oil, and eggs.
- Add in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla and mix together.
- Add in the flour and stir until well mixed.
- Last, fold in the diced apples and chopped pecans.
- Pour the batter into a greased and floured Bundt pan.
- Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
Bourbon Honey Glaze:
- Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until the powdered sugar is dissolved.
- Drizzle over the cooled cake.
The Giver of Stars Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- After reading the book, why do you think that Bennett pursued Alice while in England? If his heart was tied to someone back home, or no woman at all, why do you think he decided to marry Alice?
- Margery O’Hare is an independent woman unafraid to walk her own path. Why do you think that she so quickly joins, then leads, the cause of the packhorse library? Is it to educate people, make money, have work, or (fill in the blank)?
- Margery refuses to marry Sven, despite the fact that she loves him and he loves her. What do you think the ultimate reason is for this? Why do you think she changes her mind?
- Out of the packhorse librarians, including Sophia and Mrs. Brady, who was your favorite? Why? How do you think each added to the group’s dynamic?
- Have you ever been to Eastern Kentucky? How did reading the book change your perception of its countryside or people? Or, how did your experiences ring true while reading?
- What are your thoughts on the little blue book? Did you find it believable that Alice still had doubts about her and Bennett’s physical relationship even after reading it? Why do you think that Margery stuck her neck out for such a book?
- Education empowers people. However, in the book we see that sometimes, despite education, prejudices and preconceived notions take precedence. Discuss the ways this was exhibited in the book and discuss your own experiences with this, if time allows.
- Discuss Bennett and Mr. Van Cleve. Did you find anything redeemable in either? What did you think when, after Alice’s abuse, Margery said “It don’t matter how smart you are, how much better at arguing you are, how much better than them, period. It’s when you realize they can they can always just shut you up with a fist. Just like that.”
- Why do you think the townspeople never stand up to Mr. Van Cleve, even after they find out he shot Margery’s dog, caused the slurry dam flood, and turned a blind eye to unsafe mining conditions?
- Do you think that Margery murdered Clem McCullough? Why or why not?
- Have you read any of Jojo Moyes’ other books? How did this compare?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
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