The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Finished 1-8-19, 4.75/5 stars, historical fiction, 308 pages, pub. 2019
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands. from Goodreads
Oh, I loved this book. As I started reading about the blue people I did a Google search and this painting of the Fugates, the real-life family that settled in the Kentucky hills… Martin Fugate came over from France and started his own blue family. The story’s main character is based as a descendant of this family. Cussy Mary, or Bluet, was also one of the Book Women of the Pack Horse Library Project… a travelling group of women who rode their horses to the people who lived in the hills. This was a project that came about from Roosevelt’s New Deal and the WPA and was meant to bring literacy to the Appalachian Mountains. Both of these aspects of the story will have you doing more research after you finish the book and make it perfect for book club discussion. We read this for my book group this month and it was well-liked by all.
I was surprised at how many issues were in the book. These two I already mentioned plus discrimination, how little control over their own lives women had, the start of the unions in the coal mines, aggressive medical experimentation, and loving who you are. Too much? Nope. Somehow the characters managed to shine through and what wonderful characters they were! Richardson did an expert job of creating characters I’m going to remember and educating me, and encouraging me to educate myself. I may have even shed a tear or two. Bluet is one of my favorite characters in quite a while.
Do yourself a favor and pick up this book.