I highly recommend The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. This is my book club’s September 2020 selection. I can’t wait to discuss it with them during our upcoming Zoom meeting.
This novel is about Cussy Mary Carter. She is supposedly the last of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky who suffer from congenital methemoglobinemia. They descended from the Fugates of Cussy France. Cussy Mary is labeled a “colored” person and suffers great prejudice from the townspeople in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. Some people call her Bluet instead of her real name. Her father is a miner, who as a blue person, is forced to take on more of the dangerous tasks inside the poorly constructed mines. He is very concerned that Cussy finds a husband in the event something happens to him.
My heart broke when I read these words said by Cussy:
Nary a townfolk, not one God-fearing soul, had welcomed me or mine into town, their churches, or homes in all my nineteen years on this earth. Instead, every hard Kentucky second they’d filled us with an emptiness from their hate and scorn. It was as if Blues weren’t allowed to breathe the very same air their loving God had given them, not worthy of the tiniest spoonful He’d given to the smallest forest critter. I was nothing in their world. A nothingness to them.
Cussy is also a member of the Kentucky Pack Horse Library service that was in place in the 1930’s. She is given an undesirable route, but is very dedicated to getting books, magazines, Bibles, and homemade scrapbooks to her patrons. Cussy often reads to the patrons and students and helps them in other meaningful ways. The importance of reading shines through as even the most skeptical learn the benefits.
Through Cussy’s interactions with her library patrons, we learn of the horrific poverty of the area as she travels from shack to shack and also to a schoolhouse full of starving students. Cussy is often offered food from her patrons which she is reluctant to accept. With all the malnutrition she knows that food is the most valuable thing you can give to someone.
The novel shows the readers the senseless deaths, miscarriages, and illnesses caused by starvation, the harsh living environment, and poor working conditions in the coal mines. The descriptions of these events are moving. I got teary-eyed a couple of times while reading.
5-Stars for this beautifully written work. It is well-researched and informative. The lawyer in me had a little problem with the ending, but it didn’t bother me enough to lower my star rating.
I opted for the paperback since it has pictures and discussion questions at the end. It is 320 pages long.