The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
by Kim Michele Richardson
I was interested in reading this book because the backdrop is the Depression-era attempt to bring books to people in the back woods of Kentucky, a program I’d not been aware of before. Apparently, Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the Kentucky Pack Horse program. Big city libraries donated excess books and shipped them to Kentucky. Local women were hired, all unmarried, to distribute books to the hill people. Because of the lack of roads, the book women rode horses or mules with panniers filled with books over difficult mountain trails. (They were the first mobile librarians!) What a fascinating piece of little known women’s history. (There was another novel about this published last year called Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes. I wasn’t able to check that one out due to a very long reserve list.) The list wasn’t as long on this book, and I was able to borrow the ebook from the local library.
Richardson combines the book woman history with the story of the Blue People of Kentucky, something else I knew nothing about. Apparently a man named Fugate with blue skin arrived in the area from France in the late 1700’s and married a woman with white skin. Four of their seven children were also blue. Scientists now know that the condition, inherited methemoglobinemia, is caused by a rare gene combination. Apparently Mrs. Fugate carried a recessive gene for the condition. The Blues were considered Colored People and were treated little or no better than African Americans. You can learn more at this YouTube video.
The protagonist is Cussy Mary Carter, a blue woman. In her travels, she faces ignorance and danger from some, but wins others over with her book deliveries. The local doctor wants to study her in hopes of curing her. The preacher wants to drive the devil out of her. And one of her patrons actually thinks she’s pretty. Her journey shows us the best and worst of human nature, but in the end, she’s in a far better place than at the beginning.
I loved this book; I’m so glad I read it. Beautifully written, Richardson’s love and knowledge of Appalachia shines through, as does her love of books. I recommend the book for anyone who loves books and libraries!
As always, click on the link below for more great reviews in Barrie Summy’s Book Review Club!
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