Thursday, April 13, 2017

To the Stars Through Difficulties - Fiction Review

To the Stars Through Difficulties by Romalyn Tilghman

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publicist

Description: Andrew Carnegie funded fifty-nine public libraries in Kansas in the early 20th century but it was frontier women who organized waffle suppers, minstrel shows, and women's baseball games to buy books to fill them.
Now, a century later, Angelina returns to her father's hometown of New Hope to complete her dissertation on the Carnegie libraries, just as Traci and Gayle arrive in town - Traci as an artist-in-residence at the renovated Carnegie Arts Center and Gayle as a refugee whose neighboring town, Prairie Hill, has just been destroyed by a tornado.

The discovery of an old journal inspires the women to create a library and arts center as the first act of rebuilding Prairie Hill after the tornado. As they work together to raise money for the center, Traci reveals her enormous heart, Angelina discovers that problem-solving is more valuable than her PhD, and Gayle demonstrates that courage is not about waiting out a storm but building a future.

Full of Kansas history from pioneer homesteaders to Carrie Nation to orphan trains To the Stars through Difficulties is a contemporary story of women changing their world and finding their own voices, powers, and self-esteem in the process."

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I couldn't resist that it's about libraries!  Especially not on National Library week.

My Impression:  I'm almost embarrassed with how little I knew about Carnegie's library program.  I know who Andrew Carnegie is and I did know he was a philanthropist but I wasn't aware about his library program and how he went about it.  That alone is a fascinating story and I'm hoping to read more about it.

The story itself focuses on three women - Angelina, Traci, and Gayle.  They're all from different backgrounds and are of different ages but they have one very real thing in common.  They're all lost.  They've all had some moment that knocked them off their center and are struggling to figure out just how they're going to survive and the answer takes them both to a little town in Kansas (though to be fair - Gayle is already pretty much there).  For Angelina, New Hope and the library are her past.  A connection to a grandmother that she knew and didn't really know and a place that she felt special.  A place that really made her decide what she wanted to do with her life.  She's hoping that place can get her back on track.  Traci is just looking for a place to land and a place to stay for a little while.  She doesn't care where as long as it's safe.  Gayle has everything taken away by something she can't control and is now just lost - desperately trying to figure out what to do next.  I didn't always like these women but they always interested me.

While the focus is on the three women and the story is told in alternating chapters from their POVs the town of New Hope and neighboring Prairie Hill loom large.  The townspeople are realistic without being unrealistic and always added a little more humanity to the story.  I especially enjoyed the story line around Traci's "Troublemakers".  The history of the state, the area and the women who proceeded the main characters is just as interesting and just as important to the story.  I always adore a history element in the books I read and this one did not disappoint.  The story of the Carnegie libraries and the people who made it all happen is one I think hasn't gotten nearly enough attention and I'm so glad I was able to learn a little bit through this book.

Overall, this was an interesting read with history and heart.  I enjoyed getting to know New Hope and its residents - especially Angelina, Traci and Gayle.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: I would.  I found this an interesting read and enjoyed how it taught me a little about library history that I didn't know.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Definitely!  If you enjoy fiction, history and character development I think you'll enjoy this one.

11 comments:

  1. Oh, I need this book in my life! I know a bit about Carnegie and the libraries and as a matter of fact, he helped found a library in a little town called Boston Georgia. It's the smallest town in the US to have a Carnegie library. He broke down in Boston and people being kind and helpful, back in the day, assisted him and gave him lodging. He wanted to return the kindness and the townspeople said, we don't have a library and so he founded one.

    More than you needed o know, I'm sure!

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  2. I know nothing about Carnegie and the libraries! I've actually seen this book somewhere else, but can't remember where now. I remember it wasn't listed as fiction and I skipped it! Damn. Trying to browse through Facebook as I type here.

    I want it now! Great review Katherine. I've posted my Book Travelling Thursdays post and it features Smelly Cat again!

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  3. Huh this sounds interesting. The history with Carnegie in the libraries sounds interesting. I also can't resist three POVs from different backgrounds and what not. Great review!

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  4. I really don't know anything about the Carnegie Library program so this sounds like something that would be very interesting. It sounds like all three of the main characters have an interesting story to tell. Great review!

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  5. This really sounds like one I'd enjoy reading so am putting it on my wish list. Anything to do with a library always has an attraction!

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  6. Sounds really good. I've been intrigued by Carnegie libraries - didn't have one in my small hometown.

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  7. I'm glad this was a good one; I have it on my TBR for sure.

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  8. What a perfect book for library week! I know a little about the Carnegie Libraries, because the public library in my college town was (or started as) a Carnegie library. The library has moved into a newer building and the college owns the original building now, but when I was a student, the public library was still on the corner across from the original science building. I spent a lot of happy hours in there!

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  9. "History and heart" . . . Sounds like my kind of read! I hadn't heard of this one before, but it's definitely going on my wish list. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention, Katherine.

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