Beautiful prose and delicate handling prevent this melodrama from becoming maudlin.

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TIGER HILLS

Star-crossed lovers in India at the turn of the 20th century, drawn from first-time novelist Mandanna’s family history.

In the lush region of Coorg in southwestern India, three interrelated noble families, the Nachimandas, Kambeymadas and Palladas, dominate a bucolic mountain valley. A flight of herons marks the birth of Devi, whom her grandmother Tayi recognizes as a special child. Similarly, herons are present when young Machu, a scion of the Kambeymadas, admires baby Devi's lungpower. Devi grows up with her cousin Devanna, who is adopted by her father after his mother’s suicide. The two are inseparable playmates, until Devanna’s burgeoning interest in botany and scholarly mien attracts a mentor, Reverend Gundert, the founder of a nearby mission school. Devi, a beauty, has a long history with Machu. At ten, she attends a tiger wedding celebrating Machu’s daring conquest of a tiger. From thence Machu will be known as the “tiger killer.” For years, Devi, determined to wed Machu, refuses proposals from many other suitors. Devanna, meanwhile, excels at his studies, and Gundert secures his admission to Bangalore Medical College, where he is mercilessly hazed by upperclassmen who envy his genius. Although the attraction between Machu and Devi is palpable, he won’t acknowledge it because he has, to honor a Hindu god, vowed to remain celibate for 12 years. However, Devi promises to wait for him, and in the meantime they meet in the jungle for chaste but impassioned encounters. Devanna, who has always loved Devi, is driven mad when his tormentors sodomize him and murder his beloved pet. Returning home blind drunk, he rapes Devi, and her family can find no other solution than to force a marriage between them. She gives birth to a son, Nanjappa. Sworn to secrecy by Tayi, Devi cannot reveal to the devastated Machu why she broke her promise. Tragic consequences ensue, which will alter the destinies of the three clans.

Beautiful prose and delicate handling prevent this melodrama from becoming maudlin.

Pub Date: March 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-446-56410-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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