Kim Michelle Richardson comes to the blog today with a lovely historic fiction title that reads like a love letter to librarians and libraries everywhere.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Set in Appalachian mountains in Kentucky in 1936, the story follows the life of Cussy Mary Carter, a nineteen year old woman with a rare condition, methemoglobinemia, the low blood oxygen resulting in a marked blue tinge to her skin. Told by her coal-miner father that she is the “last” of her people – her nickname Cussy comes from a French town where her maternal grandmother lived. Not interested in any of the ‘men’ who present themselves for her hand, and her hopes to find her own way lead her to the Works Project Administration’s new scheme in Kentucky: The Pack Horse Librarians. Keeping in mind that not only was this (and continues to be) a desperately poor area where information and entertainment are often out of reach due to cost or accessibility from the rugged and often remote towns and villages scattered all over the mountains.
See, Cussy understands that a book can take a reader on a journey where hunger, isolation, poverty and even a dirt-floor and no near neighbors mean nothing. Escape, entertainment, enlightenment and even knowledge can be found within the pages, and more than anything people do need an escape from the day-to-day struggles that seem endless. And, knowing just how transforming a book can be, the chance to learn from another’s struggles or challenges and see how they’ve overcome them, well, it makes Cussy something of a zealot and increases her determination to provide her people, those on her route, with all the books that she could. It is this determination that makes Cussy such an engaging and endearing character for booklovers, and also places her into many different situations. Yes, she is a ‘native’ but not everyone is kind to her, or reasonable when strangers (read ‘non-family’) appear on the land, particularly when they represent the government – even in a time when governmental assistance was a rare and unheard of thing, being more invasive than helpful. From dangerous to heartbreaking, and plenty of moments that just encourage a smile, Cussy brought enlightenment, entertainment and new worlds to her people, worlds that were all contained within the pages.
I’ve read one other title from this author, and this unique and inspiring tale both engaged and informed with prose, descriptions and a character in Cussy Mary Carter that could serve as a model for the need for books, reading and libraries in all places made it a favorite for me this year. It really did read like a love letter to libraries and their continued fight to provide information, learning and books, in all forms and all places, for everyone.
Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Depression Era, Literary Fiction /Historical Setting, Setting: American, Small Town, Sociological Relevancy
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Published on: 7 May, 2019
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 9 Hours: 26 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google ♦Audible
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government's new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people--a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman's chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
If you are curious about these women- you can find a bit about them from NPR’s Morning Edition