A few days ago, I read The Giver of Stars and absolutely loved it. When I reviewed it, I saw all these plagiarism rumours in the other reviews about how The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was published five months earlier and had essentially the same plot. I had never heard of TBWoTC and thought there was no way it could be better than TGoS. I started reading TBWoTC almost immediately after I finished TGoS (late at night after writing my review) and barely made it through the first few pages, so I scoffed at the reviews that said this was a better story – what could be better than TGoS? I had never heard of the Pack Horse Library Project before, and the story was told so beautifully and satisfyingly. As it turns out, though, I was so very wrong.
Where TGoS was pleasant and easy to read, this was dark and haunting. TGoS was like an easy summer read to pass the time where TBWoTC grips you and holds you and won’t let you go to bed even though you have to get up for work in four hours… I couldn’t stop – I had to know what was going to happen next.
There is so much hurt, longing, and despair in this book, the emotions are palpable. Our past and prejudices aren’t sugarcoated or glossed over, and I could not predict what would happen next; the things you think will return to cause problems never do, and when you finally think things will get better, they get even worse. And then when they do get better, it’s only to lull you into a false sense of security right before they get worse again, and again, and again. It’s so honest and genuine – a reflection on how even the light has shadows and nothing is perfect.
I have absolutely nothing against TGoS: it is an entirely different kind of story for such a similar plot. I would recommend both books, but if you’re only going to read one – make it this one. The Giver of Stars is enjoyable, but The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is meaningful.