The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

by Kim Michele Richardson

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"...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."—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.

Additional Praise for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek:
"A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word."—Kirkus
"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."—Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Almost Sisters

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492671534
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 490
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Kim Michele Richardson was born in Kentucky and resides part-time in Western North Carolina. Her work includes Liar's Bench, GodPretty in the Tobacco Field and The Sisters of Glass Ferry. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her fourth novel.

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
Tangen More than 1 year ago
horror, Appalachia, prejudice, starvation, love, historical-research, historical-places-events, historical-fiction, libraries, ***** Cussy Mary Bluet is fiction. The horrors of starvation, prejudice against both blue and black skin colors, and coal mining are real. Also real is the recessant gene for methemogobinemia with the dubious studies and treatment of the 1930s, the pride and perseverance of the people of Appalachia, and the WPA Pack Horse Project librarians including the kindness of those who donated reading materials. The story itself is of one Book Woman who suffered from a misunderstood trait, the debilitating prejudices of those around her, and the soul deep sadness that comes from being helpless to improve the dire living conditions of others. Despite all, the end of this book is uplifting. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley. Thank you!
Anonymous 9 months ago
goozylucy 13 days ago
This story draws you in from the get go. The characters are well developed and relatable. The relationship between father and daughter is sweet yet tenuous at times. She wants only to bring her books to the people, her father wants only to protect her and make her life better. The story of the pack horse librarians has always fascinated me. I'd love to know even more about them. This story gives a great feel for the occupation and what it was like for one individual. Perhaps that's what it was like for many of the women. While parts of this story are difficult, the overall take away is this: Normal is relative. There will always be those who feel superior and seek to put you down. However, there will also be those rare few who see your true self and accept you for you. There will probably even be one, when you least expect it, who sees nothing but your heart and lives you for it!
Katie Clark 14 days ago
I was expecting a great story centered around books. I definitely got that! The story was both sweet and heartbreaking. The characters evoked strong emotions: some positive, some negative. I really enjoyed all the layers to the story and how lives intertwined through books. The main plot seemed a little predictable and moved rather slowly at times. What I didn't expect was to learn so much about the blue people of Kentucky and about the pack horse library, Born and raised in Ohio, I'd never even heard of either before reading this book. I was so intrigued that I did more research about both fascinating parts of American history. For me, learning about these two things (and being interested to learn more) was really the highlight of having read this book.
Anonymous 23 days ago
Very well written. Having lived most of my life around the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains, her descriptions and dialogue were right on. Even though the Appalachian Mountains are some of the oldest in the country, there are sections that are rough and treacherous. A drive up I-40 between Asheville and Knoxville provides a glimpse. The poverty and remoteness of the places are accurate. As is the religious fervor that is still abundant today. But the risk these women took to bring books to those hill folks through the Pack Horse library is an amazing story. I wish Ken Burns would do a documentary of this. The discrimination the author highlights in this book is very well done, particularly the scene between Cussy Mary and Jackson on the trail.
MWgal 3 months ago
A great find! The book was well researched and, despite the cruelty and occasional violence, it was a really good read!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Heartwarming story!
lowkeybookish 4 months ago
I'm always intrigued by books about book. I was lucky enough to find this book available on Hoopla through my public library. I was not disappointed. The story is about pack horse librarians who brought books to their patrons in the hills of Kentucky. It is also a story of a family with a rare recessive gene disorder that causes their skin to appear blue. The story describes how Cussy, also known as Bluet, deals with the poverty and prejudice in 1930’s Kentucky. Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end, with fascinating details and insight about the blue people of Kentucky, courting candles, and the Packhorse Library Project. I think the Author's notes hide the most interesting gems. 5/5
lghiggins 5 months ago
Two tales woven seamlessly into one—that’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a work of historical fiction carefully researched and crafted by Kim Michele Richardson. Cussy Carter is a blue-skinned young woman, strong, determined, and the subject of suspicion, hatred, and discrimination in the backwoods of the Kentucky Appalachians in the 1930’s. She is also a Book Woman, a librarian who travels by mule to deliver books to the far reaches of the mountains to patrons who otherwise would have no reading options. Cussy, also called Bluet, knows her place in society as does her Black friend Queenie. They are both considered “colored.” Most people are disgusted by looking at Cussy and certainly avoid any kind of touch. Richardson paints a moving portrait of Cussy and what it must be like to be an object of ridicule and perhaps the last of her kind. You will be hoping for the best for Cussy who, as a coal miner’s daughter, lives in poverty but shares freely with her even more impoverished patrons. Her father, also a Blue, suffers from lung issues and horrible working conditions. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a work you will read with your heart in your throat, amazed at the struggles and sufferings of Cussy, her pa, her patrons, and those who dare show kindness to her. At the same time, the book is uplifting because there are good people included in the story and Cussy always stands as a model of someone who does what is right because it is right and in spite of those who would hurt her. I would like to extend my thanks to and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Cussy Mary is the last of the Kentucky blue people, they suffered from a rare genetic disorder called Methemoglobinemia that causes their skin to have a blue tinge. The story is set in the Appalachian mountains in the early 1930's, where poverty, sickness and hunger is a sad part of life. Mary is a strong person, with the love and support of her father she has been raised to be kind and considerate to others. Her Pa is a coal miner, he has some rather old fashioned ideas and he thinks for Mary's safety she needs to be married. Lets just say that offering an older man a small plot of land and your daughters hand in marriage is a big mistake. The sad fact is the local community are mean to Cussy Mary and nasty to her and she is not made to feel welcome in the town. President Roosevelt's WPA Program was established to create jobs during the depression and to help isolated people. Mountain people were extremely poor, they had no money, little education and they were also starving. Cussy Mary is a pack horse librarian, she travels deep into the mountains riding on her mule, where each week she delivers worn out books, old magazines, health pamphlets and scrapbooks that she make up herself with recipes and other home making ideas. Many of the mountain people live in severe poverty, they don't like change, can't afford to see a doctor and are very superstitious. Through her job Mary visits people who are isolated from the outside world, they're very grateful for the service she provides, they don't judge her by the colour of her skin and she makes many friends. I really enjoyed The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek, it's a lovely story it shows by sharing knowledge, wisdom, kindness, hope, and the love of reading with people, lives can be changed and it's a truly a beautiful book. One of the best books I have read this year, I loved it and I gave it five stars.
Mbhills 6 months ago
When I first read this I thought it was an interesting plot twist to have blue people. What an interesting way to bring racism into light. I could not believe that there were actually blue people. In fact this book is based on historical fact. Cussey or Bluet as she is called is blue. She has a job as a librarian delivering books through the mountains of Kentucky. Her father however is determined to marry her so she know longer has to travel this difficult journey every day just to deliver books. Cussy has no desire to be married and loves her job. She loves the impact that she has on people when she delivers them the book. I really enjoyed this novel. A very enjoyable historical fiction read.
Anonymous 7 months ago
This is a wonderful historical novel based upon the Book Women who delivered library materials to those in the out of the way sections of Kentucky. The book women were part of a program started by President Roosevelt under the WPA. There are many book women in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky but the protagonist of the novel is the unforgettable Cussy. Cussy speaks in dialect which helps the reader to fully enter into her world. She faces special challenges because Cussy is the last of the 'blues.' There really were blue-skinned people in America as a supplement at the back of the novel attests. They were objects of curiosity and also of prejudice, just as was the case for the African American population. Cussy wants to be independent both before and after her disastrous short term marriage. And yet, what will happen with patron Jackson who is one of the few to call Cussy by name, rather than the derogatory Bluet? Cussy's love of books flows through the novel. There are references to books that were popular at the time, including those by Steinbeck and Rex Stout. Cussy's inventiveness in making books and delivering what her patrons need is impressive. The landscape of rural Kentucky, the small towns, the mines, the mountains are all well described. Each patron that Cussy visits has a back story and readers will even come to learn more about the mule who transports her. If you are a reader who enjoys historical fiction set in the U.S., consider this one. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Sourcebooks, for this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 8 months ago
mytwocents 8 months ago
What a great listen! I loved that the audiobook dropped me right in the middle of rural Kentucky in the 1930s. Cussy Mary, the main character/narrator, spoke in a thick dialect that sounded perfectly natural while listening. I might not have enjoyed this quite so much if I had tried to read her speech patterns, so I'd highly suggest listening to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Kim Michele Richardson must have done an incredible amount of research to portray life during the Great Depression so vividly. (I was surprised to find out that the Blue People of Kentucky were real, too!) Every step of the way, I cared about what happened to Cussy Mary and her family, friends, and neighbors. It's stunning to think that as recently as the 1930s, people were still living the way that's described in the book. My only complaint is that I'm not a huge fan of the way things wrapped up in this story, so I'll call it a 4.5/5. (Right now, I'm indecisive about whether I should round up or down.) I'd highly recommend giving it a listen!
OneThriftyReader 8 months ago
I had no idea that there had been a group of blue-skinned people in Kentucky! I'm really fascinated by this and will definitely be doing some research to find out more about them (and hopefully, what caused this unusual skin tone). To make her main character a blue-skinned person who is also a pack horse librarian was a stroke of genius on the author's part. I also didn't know that the WPA had funded traveling librarians who brought books to people - and taught them to read those books. This is a fascinating book that brings these two very interesting historical facts together in a great story. This book also has a great title. In a related note, I actually saw one of the librarians at my local library reading this book a couple of weeks ago!
RMeckley 8 months ago
This is a fascinating historical novel that sheds light on two ideas – the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project and the real blue-skinned people of Kentucky. 19-year-old Cussy Carter is a “Blue” and a “book woman.” She and her father, a coal miner, eke out a subsistence in the face of horrible racism and poverty, as “Blues” are considered lower than Negroes in 1930s Kentucky society. In spite of everything, Cussy is dedicated to her job – riding many miles on her ornery mule to provide reading, educational, and informational materials to her patrons who live deep in the hills. She provides not only old books, but also magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and home-made “scrapbooks” that contain recipes and farming tips. During her weekly visits, Cussy often reads to people, and brings medicine and food, when she can find them. The poverty is difficult to read about, as are the horrible wrongs brought on Cussy. But ultimately, reading the novel is uplifting and positive, as it is a true testament to the power of books and reading material. Cussy is a shining example of all the librarians and library workers, past and present, who provide materials to those who want them. I don’t think I will ever take a new book for granted again!
MichelleRenee 8 months ago
This is a such a remarkable book! I had been vaguely aware of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, as in I knew they existed, but I never really took the opportunity to learn much more about them. So when I got a chance to read this book, it proved to be unique and interesting. I also wasn’t aware at all about the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, and, well, I do love a story that revolves around books. Richardson’s writing style flows with grace. It’s well written and Cussy is an unforgettable character. But it’s the appendix that speaks to my heart as an historian. I loved the inclusion of the archival photographs at the end. It really gives you a chance to put the book in historical context and visualize the narrative. I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Richardson’s work in the future and I highly recommend this one!
judgie39 9 months ago
Prior to reading this book I had never heard of the Kentucky blue people or the pack horse librarians. While this book is historical fiction, there is a wealth of information about these two subjects beautifully woven into the story. At the end of the story there is a little section discussing the history of these two. Now on to the story. Cussy Mary and her father are the last remaining Blues living in Kentucky. Her father wants her to get married, but Cussy believes no one will love her because of her skin color. Cussy gets a job as a book woman, a dangerous job traveling to remote areas through unsafe territories, delivering books and teaching people how to read. Along the way she also unknowingly tears down their prejudices against those that are different. The characters and story are remarkable. They will stick with you long after the story ends.
Cmdale 9 months ago
An absolutely beautiful, worthy read. The history of the Pack Horse Librarians is well chronicled along with the description of the depression times in the Appalachia Mountains. The hunger and hard life can be physically felt as your read through. You will fall in love with Cussy Mary the minute you meet her and her ups and downs will be yours as well. The other characters in the book are so well developed in just a few passages you will know them and some you will love, others you will despise. I could not stop reading and was sorry for this book to end.
Kelsey Bickmore 9 months ago
This was a really fascinating story! Even though it is historical fiction, I learned a lot that I had never known, like the blue people of Kentucky. This book had me going and looking up more information about them as I read the book and afterwords. I really liked traveling along with Cussy as she rode Junia, as a Book Woman of the Pack Horse Library. Reading it in the modern times, it was hard to get through the prejudice that some of the characters had for Cussy, and other people of color, be they blue or another shade. Cussy is a wonderfully strong woman during all the trials she had in her life and she showed great kindness through them all too. This is a great book to read and a good jumping off point to get to reading more about the blue people and the awesome Pack Horse Library and Book Women and Men.
Bookdeedoo 10 months ago
Oh this book! It just got me in all the right places! I really struggled to put this down at all -- I wanted to read straight through to see what was going to happen next for Cussy Mary. In this book, Author Kim Michele Richardson paints the most exquisitely detailed picture of what life would have been like during the depression in the Kentucky hills. I did not love the last 10% or so of the story so that takes a tiny bit off my final score, but I still strongly recommend this read -- it was fascinating and equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for this one. Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with a DRC of this book.
trutexan 10 months ago
This one is definitely making my list of favorites for this year! I had no idea about the Fugates of Kentucky or the Pack Horse Librarians. I love it when reading opens my eyes to new information. Kentucky is a state that has had its share of struggles and the author presents readers with life in Appalachia during the years of some of the most desperate times for the folks living in the hills. Set during the depression years, Cussy Mary’s father is a miner who is suffering from black lung. The conditions in the mines were awful and it created quite a bit of conflict in the mining communities. In addition to that, people were without jobs due to the depression, causing many families to go hungry. Cussy Mary was fortunate to have her job as a Pack Horse Librarian. She loved her job and had a caring way with the people on her route. Yet, she was an outcast in the community because of a genetic condition that turned her skin blue. The hill folks on her route didn’t seem bothered by her color. They loved to see her coming with some new books and often gave her small gifts or mementos. I enjoyed following along as she delivered books on her route, interacted with the people along the way and nurtured her relationships with those she loved and cared about. She had a very hard life, but a joyful, giving soul in spite of it. I think the author did a wonderful job in presenting the story and look forward to reading more of her work. I think all book lovers will enjoy reading this one. It’s full of interesting Kentucky history which will appeal to historical fiction and history readers as well. Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for allowing me to read an advance copy and give my honest review.
Anonymous 11 months ago
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an example of historical fiction that draws you in to the era and location. Cussy is one of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky - a group of people that were viewed with mistrust. She obtains a job with the WPA Pack Horse Library project, to bring literacy to those in Appalachian Kentucky. She develops trust with her clients and brings what she can for the impoverished residents. Cussy struggles with being 'colored' and with the horrors she sees, yet realizes her inner strength to maintain her self-esteem and help others as best she can. The writing was excellent and makes me what to read other historical novels from Kim Michele Richardson. I highly recommend this book and it would be a great book club selection.
FrancescaFB 11 months ago
bamcooks 11 months ago
*4.5 stars rounded up Set in 1936 in the hollers and hills of Kentucky, this is a heart-wrenching novel about poverty, prejudice and the longing for love and acceptance, but most of all, it is about the power of books to set us free. The main character of the story, Cussy Marie Carter, is a traveling librarian with the Pack Horse Library Project, delivering books and other reading material to the folks in the hills. But there's one other interesting thing about Cussy--she's blue-skinned, a congenital disorder virtually unknown outside these hills. In fact, Cussy, also known as Bluet, may be the last of her kind. Her mother has recently died as the story opens, and her father, a coal miner with lung disease, is trying to find a suitor for her so he'll know she'll be taken care of when he is gone. But there's so much prejudice about her skin color that the only taker is a 62-year-old man and he takes her only because some land is offered. Fortunately for Cussy, fate takes a hand on their wedding night. So now she's a widow and back at home, working the job she loves best with the ornery mule she has inherited from her husband. There is so much to love about this story, this character, and the people she meets along the way. But there's sadness too-in the poverty, ignorance, and prejudice she confronts: "Nary a townsfolk, not one God-fearing soul, had welcomed me or mine into town, their churches, or homes in all my nineteen years on this earth. Instead, every hard Kentucky second they'd filled us with an emptiness from their hate and scorn. It was as if Blues weren't allowed to breathe the very same air their loving God had given them, not worthy of the tiniest spoonful He'd given to the smallest forest critter. I was nothing in their world. A nothingness to them." Beautifully written and thought-provoking. Informative too! I had never heard of this disorder before reading the book. I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. Many thanks for providing me with a very good read.