Alice escapes her drab life in England by marrying the handsome Bennett Van Cleave, son of a wealthy businessman, and comes to rural Kentucky. Her dreams of a glamorous life are dashed when the America she hoped for turned out to be cold, lonely, miserable, and immensely boring. She soon realizes that her husband can’t seem to go beyond a kiss with her and she has nothing to do the whole day except socialize with a bunch of stuck up ladies. To add to her distress, lack of purpose, and uneventful life, she finds that her father-in-law is overbearing and intrusive.
When she meets Margary, a woman slave only to her free will, she immediately grabs the opportunity of delivering books with her as part of a Packhorse Library project, a unique initiative to spread literacy in the 1930s.
Alice just does not distribute books, she delivers hope, acts as a soothsayer to a dying man, instills the spice in dull marriages with a particular blue book that is eagerly awaited by the ladies, and brings happiness to children. She, along with the other librarians, dots the vapid skies of the small town with small hope-riddled clouds.
What began as Alice’s need to get out of the claustrophobic Van Cleve household, transformed into an impactful undertaking.
To me, the book stands out as an example of woman empowerment in a peculiar way, in the America of the 1930s. This is a story of how Elenor Roosevelt’s Packhorse Library Project gave 4 women in rural Kentucky a purpose, strength, and an ability to carve their own path without following the norms of the times.