The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

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Includes reading group guide and author Q&A.

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Michele C

Jan 12, 2021

Backwoods Kentucky folk living poorly and loving the library books

Tena Kay

Oct 26, 2020

Bluet is one of her nicknames

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Reviewed by mrsboone4, Green Forest, Arkansas, USA
Rating: 5 stars

Not very often do I come upon a book that I truly care so much about, as I do this one. The heroine Cussy Mary Carter is a poor, lonely, "colored" young woman who is a Packhorse Librarian which is part of Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. When I say colored, you might think brown, but in Cussy Mary and her family's experience, it would be lovely to be a brown skinned person. No, Cussy Mary and her family are Blues. They have a rare blood condition that causes them to have various shades of blue skin. Cussy Mary's skin is a dark, deep indigo blue color. Her color is such that the local doctor who delivered her when she was born, nicknamed her "Bluet." She doesn't mind the name, doesn't necessarily like it, but it's better than other names she has been called.

Cussy Mary loves her job as a packhorse librarian, the women officials who work at the Library Center are prejudiced against her and most of the other women working there, doesn't matter if you are brown, blue or simply just tall, they always have something snide to say to you or about you. Cussy Mary doesn't have to be around them much, she spends most of her time delivering books and magazines to her library patrons and caring for her Pa who is also a Blue like herself. Her pa works in a Kentucky coal mine, where all of the coal dust makes one man look just like all the other miners. But it's hard work and hard to keep body and home clean of all the coal dust.

The people in and around Troublesome Creek mostly tolerate Cussy Mary as their packhorse librarian, willing to accept mostly anything to get the coveted reading materials. Cussy Mary tries to give everyone a smile, even when she doesn't feel like it.

The book introduces you to some of Cussy Mary's book patrons such as: Henry, the adorable little boy who loves Peter Pan; Miss Loretta, who is mostly blind who doesn't read anything she's given, but she enjoys the "Book Woman" reading to her from the Holy Bible; Devil John, a moonshiner who has specific requests from the "Book Woman"; Angeline Moffit, a sixteen year old bride; Jackson Lovett, a charming young man who has traveled and worked out West for a time but is now at home, working on his homeplace. Each is a very interesting person, making you fall in love with almost everyone in the book. You learn to love who Cussy Mary loves and cares about.

This book will possibly make you cry, you may want to read it repeatedly as I did during the three weeks that I had it checked out. I know now, that I must have a copy of this book for my very own. Highly recommend.

DaniRae

Jul 27, 2020

Amazing historical fiction

This book opened my eyes and mind to historical events that were completely new to me. This well-researched book contains author's notes at the end which explain more about the actual book women that risked their lives and endured hardships to bring books and knowledge to the poor. She provided photos of the librarians on their routes, delivering books and reading to their patrons.

I loved the concrete feel of the writing that painted this setting and the people in 3D, with sights, smells, sounds, and textures, and with such powerful, resonating emotion with both the hardships and joys of back country life. I recommend this book for historical fiction fans as well as those who enjoy a really good story.

Trigger warnings: attempted rape, suicide, racism, and hate crimes

Claudia

May 7, 2019

My Highest Recommendation

Not since Before We Were Yours has a book touched my heart to this degree. I believe having done some online research about the blue people of Kentucky, and reading about the Fugate family of Troublesome Creek, deepened the influence this book had on me. Being a book lover, I was also fascinated by the Pack Horse Library Project, a part of the Works Progress Administration of Roosevelt's New Deal Acts. In the years of its service, over one thousand Pack Horse librarians served nearly 600,000 Appalachian patrons, taking reading materials, both donated and created by the librarians themselves, into the poorest and most isolated areas of eastern Kentucky.

This story is a testament to how far we have come in Kentucky, and perhaps how far we still have to go. It addresses the importance of education,civil rights, and compassion. In heart-wrenching ways the author reminds us of the high cost of poverty. Where we have been is often an arrow pointing in the direction we still need to proceed. The winding mountain trails tread by these librarians in eastern Kentucky may exemplify the route we have taken in moving forward.

Readers of my reviews know that I typically review Christian fiction. While the language in this book prevents if from falling within that genre, it is not without strong spiritual elements. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek will take root in your heart like our deep rooted Kentucky oaks. I am grateful to have received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for my honest opinion. I was under no obligation to write a positive review, and received no monetary compensation. I give this book my highest recommendation, and hope it received the recognition it deserves.

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