The Giver of Stars
by Jojo Moyes


West Maui Book Club Discussion Questions

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Any page numbers refer to iPad edition.


1. Each character stood out for different reasons. What did you find most interesting about each one? Alice Van Cleeve and/or husbands, Bennet Van Cleeve and Fred Guisler. Margery OʻHare and/or Sven Gustavsson. Izzy Brady and/or her mother. Beth Pinker and/or her lover, travel. Sophia Kenworth and/or brother, William. Kathleen Bligh and/or her husband, Garrett, who died, but she never remarried. And then there’s Mr. Van Cleeve, his abuses and his slurry dam. Verna and Neeta McCullough, Verna’s pregnancy and her saving Margery. Or Nancy with bedridden sister, Jean, who became a (false?) witness.

2. What did you think of the book Margery OʻHare used to hit Clem McCullough with was titled, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott? (If you recall, the novel follows sisters--Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy--from childhoot to adulthood.) Discuss Jojo Moyers’s possible irony.

3. It's a far cry between meeting Clem McCullough in the prologue and the late introduction of his daughter, Verna, during the trial's climax, but there's more than a blood feud between his family and Margery O'Hare's. What is it and how do the books indicated play a part? Quote, pg 3 of 390: "Oh, you got all the answers. You think we don't know what you all have been doing? You think we don't know what you've been spreaading among decent God-fearing women? We know what you're up to. You got the devil in you, Margery O'Hare, and there's only one way to get the devil out of a girl like you." Also note: Married Love by Dr. Marie Stopes is now over 100 years old and available as a PDF on the Internet. Check it out to read what all the fuss was about.

4. Were there other ironies included in this novel? For instance, that the other book that got Margery and the ladies in trouble was titled, “Married Love” by Dr. Marie Stoops, or that it was Peggy Foreman as Bennett Van Cleve’s new wife, who came to borrow it in the end?

5. What did you think of Alice learning that since she and Bennett never consummated their marriage, they were, in fact, not married in the eyes of God? Or that she wasn’t exactly sure what “consummated” meant until Fred showed her?

6. Let’s talk a little more about Margery and her grit. Was she a woman ahead of her time, or too hard conditioned to let anyone in close enough to make a difference?

7. Which woman, in your mind, grew more by story’s end?

8. Had you ever heard of the packhorse librarians or the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Pack Horse Library Project, originally created in Paintsville, KY? Another in Campbellsville, was headed by Louise S. Van Cleve…(Wikipedia)

9. Several quotes stand out. This one still rings true for men and women! “And there is the bare truth of it, for her and all the women around here. Doesn’t matter how smart you are, how clever, how self-reliant—you can always be bettered by a stupid man with a gun.” Or, “Look outwards Alice. Not much point worrying what the town thinks about you-nothing you can do about that anyway. But when you look outwards, why, there’s a whole world of beautiful things.” What were your favorite quotes and why?

10. Discuss the power and influence of books. Discuss the power and influence of women. Discuss, in particular, the power and influence of the women in “The Giver of Stars.”


1. While writing and researching THE GIVER OF STARS, author Jojo Moyes visited Kentucky several times, stayed in a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain, rode horses along the trails, and met the people of Kentucky. Did the characters and sense of place feel authentic to you?

2. Alice, a Brit, is an outsider, but eventually acclimates to her new home in Appalachia, and even falls in love with her new home. She grew up in a rarefied world in England, so the change to “unremarkable” Baileyville proved quite the shock to her system. Have you ever moved to a distinctly different location? What was that transition like? How did you adapt?

3. Literacy and censorship are significant issues in THE GIVER OF STARS, issues that affect the women of the novel very differently from the men. Why do you think Moyes chose to focus on these topics?

4. Moyes has said she wanted to write a book about women who had agency and who actually did something worthwhile, rather than simply existing in a romantic or domestic plotline. Margery is the unofficial leader of the librarians and Alice eventually inherits that role when Margery is jailed. Yet throughout the book, most of the women do have their moments of agency. Which of these moments struck you most intensely? Did you ever wish a character had taken action when she hadn’t? If so, when, and what could she have done different?

5. The novel features families from vastly different backgrounds, and one of the central issues in the book is that of class inequality. In which scenarios did you see these dynamics play out, and between which characters?

6. There are numerous ways in the book in which the acquisition of knowledge changes characters’ lives: protecting their homes, educating their families, liberating themselves from marriages. Have you ever experienced such a shift --- after gaining new knowledge --- in your own life? How did it happen? If not, what held you back from making a change?

7. The relationships between men and women in this book vary greatly --- from Margery and Sven’s loving, mutual respect and passion, to Bennett and Alice’s bewildered lack of understanding to the true love affair that blossoms between Alice and Fred. How did you come to understand the differences among these relationships? Did you relate to any of them in particular or to any of the problems these women faced in their romantic relationships?

Elaine Gallant
West Maui Book Club
June, 2020