Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson

I've been a bit behind in my reading this year. Books are so much a part of my life, it's hard for me to imagine not having them within easy reach whenever I want one to read. This wonderful book reminded me that so many people love books and reading, but often times don't have access to a library, much less afford a trip to a bookstore. 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is definitely one of my top reads of 2019. It's going to take a pretty amazing read to knock it off the #1 spot. Yes, I've still got 6 months to go, but it's such a good story! I'm not sure where I first saw this novel; I think I was reading an email from Sourcebooks (the publisher) and spotted it. Sourcebooks always publishes the best books! From there, I ordered the book from my local B&N. It's taken me a few weeks to finish, but not because it wasn't interesting. It was just so darn good. 

Cussy Mary Carter lives outside of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky in 1936. Poverty is overwhelming for the folks; coal mining kills the men, and food is hard to find. Cussy is one of the local Pack Horse Librarians, part of a WPA project created by FDR to put people to work during the Depression. The librarians rode horses and mules up and down the Appalachians, through all kinds of weather, to deliver books, newspapers, and handmade scrapbooks to schoolchildren and families. She lives with her father, a coal miner suffering from lung disease, and lives a very isolated life because she's blue. As in blue-skinned. 

Cussy and her father suffer from a disease that turns their skin blue. Unknown at the time, it is a genetic condition of the blood. What folks around Troublesome Creek see is a woman who is different-not white-and therefore shunned, treated badly, and treated as lesser-than in everything. Cussy, however, is smart, educated, beautiful, and tough as nails. But a lifetime of being singled out, left out, and treated badly have left their mark, and she yearns to be able to fit in, find love, and be accepted. 

This novel is about Cussy's travels as a librarian; the people she meets on her route--hard working, good people who don't see Cussy's skin color, but see her as she is, and appreciate her work bringing them a bit of the world every week. The local doctor is eager to study Cussy and her father, and figure out why they are blue skinned, but Cussy is reluctant to be poked and prodded, until Doc makes her an offer she can't refuse. And when it looks like Cussy finally has her wish to fit in come true, it comes with consequences that she didn't expect. 

Kim Michelle Richardson has written a novel that is steeped in local lore, history, and well developed characters. It was oh so easy to slip into Cussy's world. All the little details-food, clothing, housing, and the books. The author skillfully weaves it all together into a novel that was hard to put down! You will want to explore the world of pack horse librarians (or book women, as they were called) after reading Cussy's story. NPR has a fantastic look at this WPA program.  

Rating: 5/6 for a wonderfully written novel about pack horse librarians in Kentucky. Cussy Mary Carter is a character you won't soon forget. This is your summer novel to read! 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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