Life is hard for the people of Troublesome Creek, but thanks to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, books can now brighten their days and give them hope. Cussy Mary Carter is one of the area's "book women," and she considers her job a true calling: bringing the light of literacy to people starving for it back in the remote hills and hollows where she lives.
Not everyone is keen on the Library Project or on Cussy Mary. She is a Blue-- her skin a shade of blue unlike anyone else-- and a Blue is often blamed for any hint of trouble. Cussy Mary's going to need every bit of gumption she has to fulfill her duties as Book Woman for she's got to confront age-old prejudice and suspicion.
Having read a non-fiction book about the pack horse librarians of Kentucky, I couldn't resist picking up a copy of Richardson's The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. In a very few pages, I found myself lost in the hills and hollows of Depression-Era Kentucky. The author brings this world to dazzling life, and it's almost impossible not to become emotionally involved with Cussy Mary, her family and acquaintances, and her library patrons.
The work of a pack horse librarian was onerous. In this poverty-stricken area, "make do and mend" was the way life was lived. Old license plates were turned into bookends for the shelves that housed the donated books the librarians took out to the people. Cussy Mary's mule, Junia, is her stalwart companion as well as a character in the book, and the descriptions of the librarians' routes in the mountainous terrain make readers wonder how they ever got through regardless the weather.
Richardson has a way with her characters. Storylines involving Vester Frazier, fellow librarian Queenie, and a loner named Jackson didn't go the way I thought they would, and it was nice to be surprised. From our perspective, reading about the prejudice that Cussy Mary has to deal with is uncomfortable, and it made me extremely angry. As I said earlier, it's impossible not to become emotionally involved with these characters-- especially when people who are slowly dying of starvation are so grateful for the books Cussy Mary brings them that they give her food in thanks.
If you're in the mood for a beautifully written and researched piece of historical fiction, I urge you to get a copy of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. The story and its characters will stick with you for a long time to come.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Sourcebooks Landmark © 2019
eBook, 320 pages
Historical Fiction, Standalone
Source: Purchased from Amazon.