Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Susan Fanetti - Carry the World

Eastern Kentucky, 1937.
After the death of her husband, Ada Donovan returned home to live again with her aging parents. She does all she can to help them keep the small family farm going. But times are hard, and there’s never enough.
During one of her infrequent visits to town, she sees a help-wanted notice for the Pack Horse Librarian Project, seeking librarians to ride up high in the mountains and bring books to the people there. Before her marriage, Ada was a teacher, and the thought of returning to the work she loved is impossible to resist. The mountains are her favorite place, books are her great joy, and her horse is her best friend.
But not everyone on the mountain is happy to see her.
Living in a crumbing cabin at the highest, most isolated point of Ada’s route, there’s a family that catches her attention. The father keeps to the shadows. There is no mother to dote on the happy, curious children. But soon Ada comes to love them just as fiercely as the woman they lost.
And makes it her mission to bring them the world.

Comment: The librarians who traveled in the mountains of Kentucky, often in a horse, as part of a governmental initiative to allow people access to books during the Depression is a fascinating subject. I saw there are some fictional romances with this as the main theme and of three I own, I've decided to start with this one, by an author new to me.

In this book we meet Ada Donovan, a young widowed woman who is back in her parents' house and she feels she has to, for they are elderly and in need of help, since her brothers died at war. However, life during the 30s is hard and Ada does what she can to gain some money, but when she learns of the job as a traveling librarian she is actually hopeful for she used to be a teacher and she knows the mountain well. When she gets the job, she is also happy with how much is paid but her true reward comes from being the hope of so many people, including a family in a slightly isolated area. The longer she knows the two children and their widowed father, the more she feels connected with them but will she be able to have a new life when she is divided by two loves, this new one and her beloved parents?

I liked reading this novel, it was certainly cozy and sweet and without a villain, in the sense the problems were all related to how these people lived as opposed as having one person or entity causing things to be bad. I say this because there was always this sense of quietness and simplicity and I liked the story for this as well, that I didn't have to anticipate someone evil doing something awful.

As I've mentioned before, the idea of taking books and reading material to people isolated or unable to visit the library is a great one, and in a way this is why I also love libraries, that so many worlds can be so close so easily. Of course, I also imagined, even before checking the blurb, this would include a romance and I also imagined so easily how this could happen. What I missed knowing was the author's style and the tone of this book, so I was happy to see this was more focused on cozy sensations and the romance than provoking issues.

Ada is a cute and likable heroine, eager to help her elderly parents, giving help to neighbors but accepting help too, making her sweet and approachable but also a respectable young woman. I liked her and knowing she liked books and helping people reading. It's hard to imagine the horse riding scenario, she had to take many things with her and she had to stop often, so she could help people and part of the job would include chatting and helping, so I can imagine how tiring and time consuming it all was, but I can also see the intellectual and visual appeal of enjoying the views between stops.

Ada also had worries, such as helping her parents and I did love how close they were and how the author portrayed their relationship, it does feel one happy to see such obvious affection. Clearly, this was an interesting way of contrasting with the feelings she develops for Jonah and his children, once she starts stopping at their house and teaching the kids to read. At first Jonah would keep away, we quickly realize because he sees in Ada all the things he wanted to keep as being linked to feelings he had from his late wife, but it becomes obvious these are two good people destined to be a good couple.

The story is divided into different parts, all sequential, but some chapters are told from Ada's POV, others from Jonah's, and so on. It was an easy way to get to know both their personalities and how they both would see certain events, without losing the continuity of the plot. I actually liked this style better than straight first person narration, for instance. 

I suppose what I could do without would have been the prologue and epilogue, which are told from their great daughters' POV if I got that right, in present day. We learn of what happened to them and those in the story and I should say that for me this was avoidable, because it brought me down from the high of what Ada and Jonah's story made me feel, knowing specific things instead of just imagining, considering what we got was sweet and romantic enough on its own.

Apart from this, I think this book delivered all the things I imagined when I started reading, a romance that felt larger than life when life wasn't all about conveniences and modern stuff, about characters who gave more importance to feelings and simplicity than appearances, and with a love for books and reading included, something I feel is important to me as well. All in all, a very good story.
Grade: 8/10

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