Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.
Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
The people of rural 1930s Kentucky are the poorest of the poor, but crave knowledge. They have no means of transportation out of their little communities and the Pack Horse Library Project brings them books and news of the world. The women librarians who brought this treasure were called Book Women.
Cussy Mary Carter is a woman who loves books and reading and knowledge. She loves her library route and the joy of bringing words to people who have little joy and happiness in their lives. But, Cussy Mary is also a Blue. Born with a genetic anomaly that causes her skin to appear blue, she is treated as a colored person and in 1930s Appalachia, racism is strong and fear stokes cruelty.
But Cussy Mary is kind, despite how others treat her and with her mule Junia, she travels the hills and hollows each week delivering books, and kindness, and hope to the people in her community. She is the one who knows who is sick, and hungry, and pregnant. She reads to them and listens as they read to her. She is the one they confide in and share their hopes and fears.
This storytelling is fantastic. The author doesn't shy away from portraying the poverty and how lack of education and resources affects everything about life. The men risk life working in the coal mines and the women must feed and care for their families with nearly nothing. The scarcity of medical facilities and inability to communicate or travel meant that too many died in childbirth or from starvation and the story doesn't minimize that.
I'm late to the party for this book, but wow. Worth the wait. Such a fascinating story that set me off down a rabbit hole of learning about the Pack Horse Library Project and the blue people of Kentucky.
Truly a remarkable story that highlights the power of literacy, kindness, and courage.
I found the following video about the Pack Horse Library Project fascinating.
Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can find my review for the sequel, The Book Woman's Daughter, here.
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