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I was drawn to this book because it reminded me of a story from Jojo Moyes that I had loved dearly. However, this did not grab me as much as I had anticipated, although I still found the subject matter to be interesting.
Undoubtedly, this is a very well-written story and it is evident that Blaylock has researched this period. I loved the depiction of the Appalachian mountains and how families struggled in the remote wilderness. With the travelling packhouse librarians, communities were brought together through the power of the written word, and this is seen with the MacInteer family. When Amanda first visits, the children cannot read and decipher Amanda's story through the illustrations. I enjoyed watching this transformation over time and how the children grow to love reading and appreciate the opportunities that come with such a skill.
However, this book is not just about the reading scheme across America, but also Amanda's past. Over the course of the novel, readers discover the circumstances that led to Amanda being a single mother. Her story is saddening but not uncommon and I could not have predicted some of the revelations in her story. Although Amanda feels like her past is truly in the past, this does not seem to be the case and it was interesting to see how her life begins to interweave with the MacInteers, leading to a dramatic conclusion.
I enjoyed the historical element to this story and thought the descriptions to be very vivid. At the same time, I thought it made the story unnecessarily dense and quite slow in places. It felt like the writer took a bit too long to establish parts of the plot, causing my attention to wander. Whilst I enjoyed the overall plot development, I thought it could have been put together in a more interesting and absorbing manner.
The characters were all interesting to observe and I enjoyed how the writer switched between different perspectives, especially with the juxtaposition provided by Sass's narrative. It was satisfying to read from the view point of one of the nastier characters and I think this added extra depth to the plot. As identities become clearer in the story, I felt that these perspectives allowed me to understand character motives a bit more.
I liked this story but did not fall in love with it as I had hoped. Well-written and historically fascinating, I wish the plot development had been more immersive. It probably would have also helped if I had not opened it with the desire of reading a book similar to a much-loved story...
Amazon First Reads for November 2022. Published December 1st 2022 by Lake Union Publishing.
I enjoy books about the WPA pack librarian program in the Appalachian Mountains, so I thought I was going to love Light to the Hills when I first started it. I found parts of it hilarious! Who wouldn't love a book that contains this: "This man's crazy as a soup sandwich" he whispered. "His roof ain't nailed tight." (I really need to save those for future use.😂) Sass was an absolute firecracker. LOVED her! I loved her brother, Finn, too.
But the further I got into the book, the more implausible it started to feel. SPOILERS BELOW: . . . . .
What kind of father would believe something random he had been told about his daughter, by someone he didn't even know, and decide he wanted nothing more to do with her?? And then the ending of the book really made me roll my eyes. What kind of preacher's wife would kill someone??? And by releasing a box of rattlesnakes on someone who is passed out drunk, for heaven's sake! 🙄
So, three stars from me. Take my review with a grain of salt. Most people loved Light to the Hills. I just couldn't get past those pesky spoilers.
This is a historical/literary novel set in Kentucky coal country during the Great Depression. I am more than a quarter of the way through it and I still haven’t encountered a major conflict to hold my attention.
No one can deny that author Annie Blaylock writes well. Her prose is first-rate. Her dialogue is realistic and shows that she has a wonderful “ear.” She does a great job with her settings, giving readers a real feel of what rural life in 1930s Appalachia must have been like. Kudos to her for all that.
But for a story to work, at least for me, there must be a compelling conflict. Characters have to want or need things—preferably desperately--and there has to be a pretty serious obstacle standing in the way. Gatsby wanted Daisy, but his poverty and America’s class system blocked him. Ahab wanted to wreak vengeance upon Moby Dick and was prevented from doing so by the vagaries of the sea and by … well … Moby Dick.
Here, it’s difficult to tell what anyone wants. Indeed, it’s difficult to tell who the main protagonist is, since the novel’s focus shifts among characters. Yes, everyone must survive the Depression; and Ms. Blaylock does a credible job depicting various strategies for doing so. Yes, I’m seeing what it takes for people to live their lives in that time and place. But that’s all I’m seeing: a diffuse set of encounters that tell me what life was like but don't tell me a compelling story. It’s not enough to make me want to continue.
Nevertheless, I'm giving this three stars because the quality of the writing is high and because there may be those who will enjoy it simply for that reason.
Fascinating story of life in the mountains of West Virginia. Although it is very slow and the author uses too many ( way too many ) words to describe the scene and what is going on, it’s an okay book. I would recommend it to anyone who has nothing better to read
This is a book about the women during the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, and the men were already struggling to care for their families. The main character is named Amanda and she found a job delivering books to families that lived in the countryside. Her story is about bravery and perseverance during a time of hardship.
The writing was beautiful especially the description of the countryside. It was a very calm story about situations that were harsh so at first, I wasn’t sure what to think of this story. As the story progressed, the tension began to build up, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. For the most part it was due to poor character development and conflict. None of the characters stood out.
I did like that the story took place during the depression and that there were traveling libraries. That was a really cool thing FDR offered and something I don’t remember learning about. If you enjoy books about the Great Depression, you might like this one.
It was a nice story but moved slowly at times. It could have been better written, I think, with the characters flushed out a little more. I would have liked to see the relationships between the characters grow a little more. The plot was a little contrived and strained at times.
A sweet and easy read with enjoyable characters and a genuine appreciation for hard life in the Kentucky mountains where family is everything. Plot and dialogue predictable but a few twists and turns that keep the reader hooked in.
I enjoyed it enough to read the whole book, but the plot was a little lacking for me. It wasn't quite as complex or interesting as I usually prefer, but I think the author did a lovely job creating a feeling. The whole thing felt good, but fell just shy of great.
I kept on reading hoping a story would come from this book. I do not like it when the author spends too many words describing the scenery and such. The climax to this book came at the end. A good story but could have been better with much less words I will probably not read another book by this author.