"Richardson's latest work is a hauntingly atmospheric love letter to the first mobile library in Kentucky and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and - just as importantly - a compassionate human connection. Richardson's rendering of stark poverty against the ferocity of the human spirit is irresistible. Add to this the history of the unique and oppressed blue-skinned people of Kentucky, and you've got an un-put-downable work that holds real cultural significance." — Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
"This is Richardson’s finest, as beautiful and honest as it is fierce and heart-wrenching, THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK explores the fascinating and unique blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave Packhorse librarians. A timeless and significant tale about poverty, intolerance and how books can bring hope and light to even the darkest pocket of history." — Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
"Emotionally resonant and unforgettable, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a lush love letter to the redemptive power of books. It is by far my favorite KMR book—and I am her huge fan. Cussy Mary is an indomitable and valiant heroine, and through her true-blue eyes, 1930s Kentucky comes to vivid and often harrowing life. Richardson's dialogue is note-perfect; Cussy Mary's voice is still ringing in my head, and the sometimes dark story she tells highlights such gorgeous, glowing grace notes that I was often moved to hopeful tears. " — Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Almost Sisters
"Kim Michele Richardson has written a fascinating novel about people almost forgotten by history: Kentucky’s pack-horse librarians and "blue people." The factual information alone would make this book a treasure, but with her impressive storytelling and empathy, Richardson gives us so much more." — Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of One Foot in Eden and Serena
"A rare literary adventure that casts librarians as heroes, smart tough women on horseback in rough terrain doing the brave and hard work of getting the right book into the right hands. Richardson has weaved an inspiring tale about the power of literature." — Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and Queen of the Night
"With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky. A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word." — Kirkus Reviews
"This gem of a historical from Richardson (The Sisters of Glass Ferry) features an indomitable heroine navigating a community steeped in racial intolerance. In 1936, 19-year-old Cussy Mary Carter works for the New Deal–funded Pack Horse Library Project, delivering reading material to the rural people of Kentucky...Readers will adore the memorable Cussy and appreciate Richardson’s fine rendering of rural Kentucky life." — Publishers Weekly
"Readers will respond to quiet Cussy's steel spine...And book groups who like to explore lesser-known aspects of American history will be fascinated." — Booklist
"Richardson has penned an emotionally moving and fascinating story about the power of literacy over bigotry, hatred and fear." — BookPage
"A powerful yet heartfelt story that gives readers a privileged glimpse into an impoverished yet rigidly hierarchical society, this time by shining a light on the courageous, dedicated women who brought books and hope to those struggling to survive on its lowest rung. Strongly recommended." — Historical Novel Society
"The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a timely and necessary novel, certain to find an enthusiastically loyal following among book clubs, for whom it offers myriad opportunities for engagement, and with librarians and library patrons, for whom it is a heartrending hero’s tale. " — The Charleston Post & Courier
"The novel serves as a testament to the power of the written word, arguing that words can traverse barriers between class, race and individual differences." — Deep South Magazine
"Based on true stories from different times (the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the WPA’s Pack Horse Librarians), this novel packs a lot of hot topics into one narrative. Perfect for book clubs." — Library Journal
One of Kentucky's last living "Blue People" works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.
Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy's patrons refer to her as "Bluet" or "Book Woman," and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her "blue demons," efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy's condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society's members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.
A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.