A brave fight for literacy during the Great Depression
Four women set out on horseback to bring the library to remote communities
Part of FDR’s New Deal was the Works Progress Administration, which funded the Pack Horse Library Initiative. Ride along with four book-loving women who bravely fight for literacy in remote communities during the Great Depression by carrying library books via horseback. Will their efforts be rewarded by finding love in the process?
Love’s Turning Page by Cynthia Hickey
1935, Ozark Mountains
Grace Billings jumped at the chance to be a traveling librarian, but she didn’t anticipate the long days of work, the intense poverty, or the handsome new schoolteacher whose love for the mountain people surpasses even her own.
For Such a Time by Patty Smith Hall
1936, Pine Mountain, Georgia
Forced out of her nursing job due to budget cuts, Ruth Sims applies for a position with the Pack Horse Library incentive, only to discover she must go to the one place she swore never to return. The children instantly steal her heart with their thirst for books, and she’s happy in her post until she meets their teacher, Will Munroe—the man who broke her heart.
Book Lady of the Bayou by Marilyn Turk
Forced out of her comfort zone, Lily Bee Davis travels by horse or boat taking books to remote areas. When she meets little Evie and her reclusive father at a dilapidated plantation house, she is drawn by their losses and longs to draw them out into life again.
The Librarian and the Lawman by Kathleen Y’Barbo
Lottie Trent connects with a backwoods bully’s wife by secretly carrying messages for her in exchange for books. FBI agent Clayton Turnbow is on the trail of a criminal gang and discovers the packhorse librarian maybe a key member.
I’ve recently become entranced by stories of librarians who ride pack horses (and sometimes pack mules). Many novels have been written about these brave women and their sometimes risky jobs. The Librarian’s Journey tells the story of four fictional females and their motivations for becoming pack horse librarians, as well as the hardships they faced.
The women who worked as packhorse librarians were employed as part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). Although the program was officially limited to Kentucky, there were sponsors from other states, as indicated in a couple of the book’s stories. These sponsors provided financial support to the young women who were fortunate enough to be chosen for the positions.
I enjoyed reading each story because they detailed the different personalities of the librarians and the terrain the ladies experienced. My heart ached, however, because practically everyone they serviced was impoverished and lived in abject and seemingly hopeless circumstances. They all greatly appreciated the librarians and the books and magazines they furnished.
Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Marilyn Turk and Kathleen Y’Barbo have all done an outstanding job by strikingly portraying the subject of packhorse librarians, as well as the obstacles, challenges, heartaches and joys inherent in their duties and responsibilities.
I received an advanced review copy of this book from NetGalley. All opinions are my own and I am voluntarily leaving this review.