The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
A NoveleBook - 2019
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
From the critics
QuotesAdd a Quote
“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” —T. S. Eliot
“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
“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
“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
SummaryAdd a Summary
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.
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