By Kim Michele Richardson
Published May 2019 by Sourcebooks
Source: Purchased for myself
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.
This book was everything I love about historical fiction. I learned SO MUCH from this book! Before reading this I had heard of the traveling pack horse librarians, but knew very little. I knew nothing about the blue people of Kentucky. This book provided excellent historical context and information about both the blue people and the pack horse librarians, all through the eyes of Cussy Mary, a young librarian who endured countless struggles while trying to bring books to the people of Kentucky in the late 1930's. As a blue, she endured bigotry, hate, and abuse, even by those that should've accepted her (like the preacher--that whole storyline was particularly horrible). A lot of this book was heartbreaking to read, and I'm sure it didn't even touch the level of mistreatment the blue people endured.
But through all this struggle--the power of books endured. The Book Woman brought hope to so many people. She read to them. She encouraged them and supported them. Despite having nothing and living in extreme poverty in Depression era Kentucky, the people were still hungry for books and hungry to learn and better themselves. While the book is a bit slow at times, it has a roller coaster of an ending. I learned so much from this book and absolutely recommend it!