Their hunger for books could teach them of a better life free of the hunger, but without food they’d never live long enough or have the strength to find it.
Where to start? I loved this book.
There are so many unique qualities to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson, starting with the fact that it takes two fascinating pieces of history and merges them together into one character.
That character, the voice of our narrator, is Cussy Mary Carter, nicknamed “Bluet.” Piece of History #1: she is a Pack Horse librarian in the 1930’s, riding through the Appalachian Mountains weekly, delivering books to the poor but proud. Piece of History #2: she is a descendant of the Blue Fugates of Kentucky, a group of people with a rare genetic condition that turned their skin blue.
On one hand, you have Cussy Mary as the outcast because of her visible blue skin (she even qualified as “colored,” although she was not African American, and was subject to the same restrictions of the time.) On the other hand, you have Cussy Mary as the one who brings culture to the region’s isolated people. The school children look forward to seeing her. The illiterate (too proud to ever admit such a thing) depend on her to read to them. The elderly simply enjoy her pleasant company.
If there existed a scale of reactions people have towards Cussy Mary, from loving, sympathetic, and compassionate to repulsed, fearful, and murderous, she evokes them all. Yet, somehow, she maintains her composure, ever the book’s heroine from beginning to end. When a character is convinced they are unlovable, yet still manages to treat others with kindness and respect–as Cussy Mary does–you cannot help but admire them.
The themes of prejudice, segregation and ignorance are pervasive throughout the novel. But there is also forgiveness, redemption, and stoicism. My only small criticism is that the ending is almost “too tidy,” seemingly out of step with the rest of the novel. But that is purely my opinion.
Overall, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an extremely engaging read, suitable for book clubs or the curious individual looking for a story unlike any other.