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. Cussy faces special challenges because she 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.
“With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky. A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.” –Kirkus Reviews
“This gem of a historical from Richardson (The Sisters of Glass Ferry) features an indomitable heroine navigating a community steeped in racial intolerance. In 1936, 19-year-old Cussy Mary Carter works for the New Deal–funded Pack Horse Library Project, delivering reading material to the rural people of Kentucky…Readers will adore the memorable Cussy and appreciate Richardson’s fine rendering of rural Kentucky life.” –Publishers Weekly
“Kim Michele Richardson has written a fascinating novel about people almost forgotten by history: Kentucky’s pack-horse librarians and “blue people.” The factual information alone would make this book a treasure, but with her impressive storytelling and empathy, Richardson gives us so much more.” -Rob Rash, New York Times bestselling author of One Foot in Eden and Serena
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