The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

A Novel

eBook - 2019
Average Rating:
Rate this:

The New York Times and USA Today bestseller!

"...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

Published: Sourcebooks


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Apr 26, 2020

A truly well researched and well written book. Although it’s a novel, it is packed with facts. Through following the blue Pack Horse book lady, Cussy Mary, we learn about the poverty and exploitation of miners in the hills of eastern Kentucky during the 1920s and 1930s. She helplessly watched children and women die of starvation. She faced prejudice as a colored (blue) and as a woman. I highly recommend this book that takes the reader into the stark life of that time and place.

Mar 13, 2020

Historical fiction. This is one of those books I hate to return because it was so good! I want to hold onto the sense of place and culture of the remote hills of Kentucky as long as possible. The author is able to inform without leaving the story line. The book gives an intimate look at a place and way of I would never have experienced otherwise. I am grateful.

Feb 29, 2020

This well researched book weaves two topics, one of the dedicated Pack Horse Librarians and the other of the "Blues" in Kentucky. Written believably from the perspective of the main character, Mary Cussy Carter, enriches the times and place. The faithful and protective mule adds a dimension to the circle of friendships she has attracted in her travels as the Book Woman. Color matters not to those thirsty for knowledge and learning to read. A very raw picture of those living in this area in dire need of food for survival, yet finding comfort to looking forward to and depending on her visits. A very worthy read that lingers and yes, haunts after it is finished.

Feb 29, 2020

Oh my did I LOVE this book! First 5 star of the year. Combines 2 "real life" stories into one compelling novel! Cussy is a Book woman, a member of the Pack Horse Library Project in Kentucky in the 1930's.........and she is a "blue". One of the famous blue-skinned people of the hills of Kentucky. Her story kept me reading early and late! I won't say more, but get this book!

Jan 08, 2020

An interesting historical fiction about the horseback library project and a smart hard-working minority woman who manages to snag a job as a book woman. Cussy is blue, not black, but colored is colored and the racism toward her often was fierce. A worthwhile, if predictable, read about many difficult themes including poverty, racism, and domestic abuse.

Dec 18, 2019

Have you ever heard of the Kentucky Blues? No, not a sports team. They are the descendants of the Fugate family, generations of people who are born with blue skin. This book is about Bluet, a young woman who decides to brave the rigors of the road in order to bring books to families and give people a chance to learn to read. She faces daily discrimation, danger and poverty but she pushes on. The strength of these Kentucky people is awe-inspiring and the book is set in the 1930s when mining companies controlled everyone's lives. It is a wonderful book and grabs you from the first moment. Don't miss it.

Dec 05, 2019

Loved this. I had heard of the blue people but not of the wonderful people who carried books and knowledge to those mountain families. A love story not just of a man and woman but a love story I hold dear, a love of books and the means to know and understand those whom I will never meet

Oct 22, 2019

THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK is set in the backwoods of Appalachian Kentucky during the Great Depression. It’s rich historic fiction, told by Cussy Mary Carter, one of the most unforgettable, brave, and strong heroines I’ve ever encountered in literature. Before reading this book, I was unaware of the real-life Blue People of Kentucky and the Pack Horse Library Project. Author Kim Michelle Richardson deftly blends fact and fiction into a memorable story. She also includes interesting details, like the characters’ dialect and traditions, that stay true to the time period and place. THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK explores themes of grinding poverty, prejudice, racism, love, and the transformative power of books. I highly recommend this beautifully written and touching novel.

LoganLib_Phoebe Oct 21, 2019

What an extraordinary story! I had heard of the librarians on horseback before but never of the blue skinned people and the discrimination they faced. Kim Michele Richardson provides a historical note at the end complete with photographs of the librarians. Bluet is a strong and determined main character. Highly recommended.

Oct 14, 2019

Richardson writes a story based on actual events—the WPA Kentucky Packhorse Library Project and a fictional telling of the lives of families based on the real-life Blue People of Kentucky.

Rich storytelling about book hungry patrons hidden in the Appalachian backcountry of eastern Kentucky and the mostly women who packed books to patrons in the 1930s. Easy reading. History, adventure, romance. Well done.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Oct 22, 2019

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” —T. S. Eliot
The Epigraph

Oct 22, 2019

“Being able to return to the books was a sanctuary for my heart. And a joy bolted free, lessening my own grievances, forgiving spent youth and dying dreams lost to a hard life, the hard land, and to folks’ hard thoughts and partialities.” - p. 20

Oct 22, 2019

“What I wanted most was to be okay as a Blue. I never understood why other people thought my color, any color, needed fixing.” - p. 130

Oct 22, 2019

“There's nothing wrong with your color, being you,’ he said firmly. 'Nothing wrong with what the good Lord gives us in His world, Cussy Mary.’
He didn't know, couldn't know, the load I'd carried as a Blue, the scorn and hatred and gruesome marriage. How dare Pa call me vain and now Jackson. How dare he too? ‘Nothing wrong—‘Jackson repeated.
I stepped back and shot out a shaky hand. ‘No, Jackson Lovett, you're wrong. There is nothing wrong with your color in your world, a world that wants only whiteness.” - p. 204


Add a Summary
SPL_Melanie Jun 11, 2019

It's the middle of the Depression years, 1936 in the hills of Kentucky. Cussy Mary, sometimes called Bluet, is one of the Kentucky Blues -- a clan who have actual blue skin, and are shunned for it. Cussy Mary is determined not to be limited, though, and applies via mail for a job newly created by the Federal Administration in its WPA (Works Progress Administration) program. She becomes a Pack Horse Librarian.

Her job is to deliver books to mountain families along a lonely and hard route, and she loves it, even if the two white ladies running the local depot don't approve of her, one quite vocally and cruelly.

Her pa, though, wants her to marry. After a brief, disastrous union at the beginning of the book, she becomes dedicated to her job and to supporting her pa in his secret work with the coal miners unions.

There is so much drama in this book, so many ups and downs. The historical setting is fascinating and utterly compelling; it is all based in fact, even the Blues. The look at prejudice as related to unusual conditions like that of the Blues, added to the talk of social unrest like unions, the disaster that was coal mining even then, and the WPA Pack Horse Librarian program, all equal a book that is so full of social relevance that it would be worth reading even without the wonderful descriptive writing and the fine characterizations. Lucky for readers that it has both.

This is a book that will grab you and keep you reading. Cussy Mary is a strong and sympathetic main character with the ability to keep her spirits unbowed even with all of the trauma she experiences. And despite one too many traumatic incidents crammed in during the denouement of the book, it feels like there is some hope in the conclusion. And woven throughout is the power of reading and of literature to uplift and broaden a life. If you enjoy unusual historical novels with unique characters and a warm heart of social commentary, this will be one for you.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at DBRL

To Top