Book: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Who should read this book: historical fiction fans, librarians, anyone that enjoys sharing their enthusiasm for books.
Good day Bookies! I finished my first ARC! So I need to start by saying a big thank you to Harper Collins Canada for sending me this lovely book. It comes out on May 7th!
Kim Michele Richardson has a vivid and evocative writing style. She draws the full picture making you really feel like you are being transported back to rural Kentucky in 1936. Cussy Mary Carter, nicknamed Bluet, is a Pack Horse Librarian in the hills. She rides her mule every day to remote houses delivering books and also reading to some of her patrons.
The plot of this story is remarkable. Bluet has blue tinted skin, when she gets excited, angry or embarrassed she turns an even darker shade of blue. We learn quickly that the blue skin is actually a blood disorder genetically passed throughout her family history. The plot moves quickly at first, then slows down to give you a chance to get to know and love all the characters, then the last 100 pages you’re back to zooming through the story desperately hoping for a happy ending.
Bluet deals with constant discrimination and racism because of her blue skin. In the 1930’s there was still segregation in Kentucky and within the story there are a few scenes with signs reading “no coloureds”. The blue skinned people were considered “coloured” and treated horribly by white people as well. This book is a commentary on that horrible time and a reminder that white privilege is still a problem. There were many parts of this book when I felt uncomfortable with what was happening in regards to the racism Bluet and the other “coloured” characters were suffering.
The historical accuracy of Richardson’s writing is well done, she accurately describes the depression era in Kentucky and other parts of the US. Even though I knew this book was set during the great depression, and I’ve read many books from that period, I still came away shocked by the level of poverty. The worst part is, that extreme poverty is not uncommon, it still exists today all over North America and the rest of the world. Cussy sees people with almost nothing and people with less than nothing all over her route. And she isn’t much better off, but at least she has a job. This also made me uncomfortable once again noting my privilege, the fact that I have a job, shelter, plenty of food…when I know there are people with none of that.
Cussy lives in a one room shack with her father who works at a coal mine and is sick with lung disease. Her mother is long dead and she has no other family. She is told she is the last of the blue skinned people in the area. She gets by with very little food, trying to keep her father alive and healthy. Her father on the other hand is very concerned about marrying her off at the age of 19 so that he doesn’t have to worry about her anymore. But Cussy doesn’t want to marry because then she won’t be allowed to work. The rules of the Pack Horse Librarian Service are they will only hire women without husbands to support them.
Cussy’s love for books and learning, her ability to bounce back from assault after assault are what made me fall in love with this character. I was hooked within the first 50 pages and flew through the book. There is hardship, romance, death, happiness, starvation, hope, sadness, and deep friendship. This book will take you on an emotional roller coaster and leave you wanting more.