Follow the Stars Home, a 2001 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie, had been on my Master List for a long time, so when I saw it scheduled on my TV guide, I recorded it. For some reason, I was thinking this film included only a minor scene in a library — but I was (pleasantly) surprised when the reel librarian turned out to be a supporting character seen all the way through the film!
First of all, what’s Follow the Stars Home (2001) all about? Kimberly Williams plays a young woman, Diane, whose husband (Eric Close) deserts her and their young child, Julia, who is born with genetic abnormalities. When Diane gets hurt in a car accident, her husband returns, seeking a possible reconciliation. Diane’s mother is a local public librarian, and she helps raise Julia.
There are several scenes set in the library, the first occurring 10 minutes into the TV movie, when Diane goes to the library to tell her mother the news that she’s pregnant. On the way, she talks to an assistant librarian at the front counter (none other than future Oscar winner Octavia Spencer!). She tells her mother the news, and we see them embrace.
After Diane tells her mom the good news, we next see them up close at lunch. Her mother, Hannah, is attractive and stylish and loves to smile. There is a lovely, warm rapport between the two of them, evident when Hannah gives her daughter “motherly” advice throughout the film.
We have a lot of books about motherhood in the library, but none of them can prepare you for that moment, when you give your heart to your child.
You sound like your life has been folded up and put away. It’s not over.
Diane, I have a lot of respect for you, as a person, as a woman, but not just because you’re my daughter.
Diane is equally appreciative of her mother, saying at one point:
Do I tell you I’d be lost without you, or do you know it?
Next, about a half-hour into the film, we hear from Diane that her mother is retiring “just to be with Julia.” But Hannah obviously has a well-developed social life, as she mentions a few minutes later into the film that her reading group is coming over.
There is also a subplot about a young teenage girl, Amy (Alexa Vega), who begins babysitting Julia. The two become friends. Before Hannah retires, she helps Amy — and Julia! — get their own library cards!
Perhaps as a thank you, we learn at 49 minutes into the film that Amy left Hannah a poem at her desk, which she reads out to her daughter. We also learn that Hannah likes Agatha Christie books. (So do I! :D ) And she knows classic literature, quoting a famous line from Gone With the Wind later.
The next major scene at the library is focused on Hannah’s last day at the library. She apparently didn’t want a big fuss over her retirement, but she and her colleagues are obviously emotional about Hannah leaving. And we get another scene with Octavia Spencer!
Hildy (Octavia Spencer): You made us promise no fuss, but this doesn’t feel right.
Hannah: You’ll get your chance at the book lovers’ ball, where you can make as many speeches as you want.
Hildy: You’ll be the guest of honor at my table.
Hannah: We’ll see.
Young Librarian: Goodbye, Mrs. Parker. We’ll miss you.
Hannah waves goodbye without looking back, but she is obviously emotionally affected. As she drives up to Diane’s house, she wipes away tears. It’s a short but sad scene, but touching that she obviously loved her job and earned the respect of her colleagues (who both fill Information Provider roles). It’s also a rare kind of library scene onscreen, to highlight a librarian’s retirement! The only other scene similar to this I’ve seen is the retirement party scene in The Attic, seen here in this post.
But SURPRISE! Diane, Amy, and Julia welcome her home with balloons and signs that proclaim, “Life begins at retirement” and “Congratulations, Hannah!” Hannah is deeply touched, saying, “I was feeling a little sorry for myself but not now.”
An hour into the TV movie, we get the final scene set in the library, the aforementioned “Book Lovers’ Ball” taking place in the library. It seems like an annual event, but this year, it’s also an occasion to honor Hannah and her retirement. The scene starts with a close-up on the cake.
Hannah is dancing with Diane’s brother-in-law, the long-suffering David (Campbell Scott), who’s obviously in love with Diane. David goes to find Diane, who is taking a breather in the stacks.
Diane shares this tidbit with David:
I love the way libraries smell. When I was little, my mom used to bring me here, and I thought all the books belonged to her. My dad built these shelves. I wish he could be here tonight.
It’s a lovely sentiment to share, and I love that it’s history about the library as well as a glimpse into her own family history.
The TV movie wraps up pretty predictably — do Diane and her long-lost husband reunite? Or will Diane and David finally get together? — with all the loose ends tied up. One of those loose ends was the babysitter’s mom, Tess, who is a recovering alcoholic. With 10 minutes left in the movie, Hannah comes by Diane’s wood shop and hints at a possible part-time job for Tess:
Hannah: Do you think Tess knows the Dewey Decimal system?
Diane: I bet she could learn. Why, you gonna get her a job?
Hannah: Well, I could try.
Hannah is a supporting character, so Follow the Stars Home (2001) lands in the Class III category, but Hannah is an atypical librarian character. Most reel librarian portrayals fit into common character types. However, we get to witness a fully rounded character in Hannah. For example, we see her in multiple locations, at work, at home, at the hospital, etc. Hannah engages in a lot of activities, like reading, dancing, and shopping. We also get to see her in her professional role as librarian as well as in her personal life as a mother and grandmother. Throughout, Hannah is warm and understanding, and obviously intelligent. She’s not a saint; instead, she comes across as a realistically kind and thoughtful woman.
All in all, Hannah is a fantastic addition to the world of reel librarians! I enjoyed the movie much more than I expected to, and Hannah is a major reason why. :)