For the Online Book Club (find out more here!), we are currently reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was published in May 2019 and tells the story of the packhorse librarians, a group of women that brought books to remote parts of the Kentucky Hills in the 1930s. Reviews of the book have been very positive–it spent 14 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List and is listed on the bestseller lists of the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Unfortunately, it has also brought with it some controversy.

Months after the release of Richardson’s book Jojo Moyes, the popular author known for such books as Me Before You, published a remarkably similar book. Her book, The Giver of Stars, also tells a fictionalized version of the packhorse librarians that served the Kentucky Hills in the 1930s.

Not only that, but there are many more similarities. For example, both books include a violent Hillman who attacks a librarian because he believes they are doing “the devil’s work.” Both Hillman are then trampled by a mule, go missing and are later found dead. Additionally, both books include the introduction of a smart, strong, Black librarian who works at a local city library but agrees to help out the packhorse librarian project. Both women eventually leave to work at the local city library but stay in touch by writing letters to the girls back in the Kentucky Hills.

There are many similarities with the romances in the two stories, as well as many more examples. Check out this article done by Buzzfeed News to get more information about the overlaps.

Jojo Moyes was quickly accused of plagiarism but defended herself, saying that she had never heard of Richardson’s book. Moyes stated in an interview that she first heard about the Pack Horse Library after coming across a Smithsonian article on the topic. She acted quickly, started researching more about the topic in hopes of writing a book on the topic before anybody else.

When Richardson found out about the similarities between her book and The Giver of Stars, she brought the concerns of plagiarism to her publisher, Sourcebooks. After looking into the findings, Sourcebooks legal team determined that no legal action was necessary. So, for now, no legal action has been taken, although Richardson has expressed the desire to pursue legal action on her own, provided she has the financial means to do so.

As for my opinion…

I read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek last year for the Coffee and Conversations Book Club, and we all loved it! It’s heartwarming, smart and eerily relevant to today’s world. Now, a few months later, I’m currently reading The Giver of Stars with the same book club! Although The Giver of Stars lacks some of the charms of Richardson’s book, it’s still a fantastic read. And while I do see the similarities in the two books, I don’t believe that The Giver of Stars is plagiarized. The stories are distinct enough to clearly be separate, and many of their similarities can be attributed to the use of tropes rather than plagiarism on Moyes’ part. I encourage you to read both to form your own opinions!

Please join us for a great conversation over on the Online Book Club. We will be reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek until Thursday, March 4.