Although Kim Michele Richardson’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek uses the Pack Horse Library of the Kentucky hills as her setting, her story revolves around the life of a “blue” woman raised in poverty and suffering the ignorance and prejudice of her backwoods neighbors for having blue skin color..
I was anxious to read Richardson’s tale after learning about the controversy comparing JoJo Moyes’ recent book – The Giver of Stars – to hers. Both use the Pack Horse Library of the WPA (President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration) of the nineteen thirties to tell their stories. Read my review of Moyes’ book here – https://nochargebookbunch.com/2019/11/12/the-giver-of-stars/.
There are similarities but Richardson tells the better tale.
Cussy thinks she is the last of the blue people, those whose skin is blue – later discovered as congenital methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder reducing the level of oxygen in the blood. Richardson introduces this phenomenon not only within the ignorance of the townsfolk’s reaction to someone who is different but also with the medical background and supposed cures Cussy endures for a while to be white.
As a Pack Horse librarian, Cussy rides her stubborn mule Junia to deliver books to the poor living in the hills. Her hard life matches her neighbors but through her kindness, courage, and determination, she manages to instill a love of reading and change lives through books.
A few of Cussy’s mishaps and adventures resemble those of Moyes’ characters, but Richardson develops a unique focus in her heroine. Following Cussy on the trail to deliver books introduces many of the same kinds of folks encountered in the hills of Moyes book, but only a few draw special interest. Cussy’s life as a “blue” has more impact.
I had not known about the “blue” people of the Kentucky hills and Richardson provides a unique addendum to her book with pictures and more research information. I almost skipped reading this book, thinking I knew all I needed from Moyes book but The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is worth reading. Richardson gives a different perspective to poverty and prejudice, while writing an informative and entertaining tale.