To the Stars Through Difficulties by Romalyn Tilghman
Don’t you just love it when someone recommends a book to you, hoping you’ll like it, too? It’s one of the best things about having reading friends. Sometimes you discover you’ve both just finished the same book and sometimes you pass along a recommendation or ask for one. I love that. That’s what happened with this book. The publisher read my blog, saw I was a quilter, thought I would like this book and sent it to me.
To the Stars Through Difficulties is the motto of the State of Kansas. A translation of Ad Astra Per Astera, it means nothing worth doing is without effort. And if that doesn’t speak to the pioneer Kansas spirit, nothing does. Usually the thing worth doing and the effort expended is by the women. The women have a way of getting their men to do what they think is worthwhile.
Over one hundred years ago Andrew Carnegie built 59 libraries in small Kansas towns. The deal was he would build the buildings but the town had to maintain those buildings and stock them with books. Enter the women. Through bake sales, donations, craft sales, through any means possible, the women lobbied for libraries in their towns and penny by penny, nickel by nickel stocked the Carnegie libraries with books.
To the Stars Through Difficulties pays homage to these turn of the century women in the stories of three women today who are working to save the library turned art center in New Hope, and build one in Prairie Hill, a small town nearby that was completely destroyed by a tornado. Traci is an artist who lied to get a job as artist-in-residence in the art center of New Hope. Traci, known as Trash in New York, comes by the name because she was found in a dumpster as a newborn. Traci finds art in recycling and she finds acceptance in New Hope, recycling her life. Angelina is working on her dissertation for her PhD on the Carnegie Libraries and is hearing the clock ticking on her life. She can’t seem to get a hold on her life or her dissertation, and finds being back in New Hope, where her grandmother lived, is both inspiring her and holding her back. Gayle is a victim of the tornado that destroyed every building in Prairie Hill except the façade of their Carnegie Library. Not a single thing is left and the fear, panic attacks and disorientation threatens to consume her until she accepts an invitation to join the No Guilt Quilters in New Hope.
There is so much background in this book about the Carnegie Libraries, something I knew nothing about. These women aren’t wimps, they are strong and determined and single minded in their drive to save the art center. Of course their lives all converge, but that’s ok. Women who work together with a purpose do converge.
I loved this book. I loved the information I was learning about the libraries, I loved that it was an ode to libraries and books. I loved the way the book ‘sounded.’ The author writes like I talk. This isn’t one of those romance stories except in romancing the strength of the community and the determination to have books and art in their lives.
What could possibly be wrong with that?