The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
A NovelBook - 2019
From the critics
QuotesAdd a Quote
“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” —T. S. Eliot
“Being able to return to the books was a sanctuary for my heart. And a joy bolted free, lessening my own grievances, forgiving spent youth and dying dreams lost to a hard life, the hard land, and to folks’ hard thoughts and partialities.” - p. 20
“What I wanted most was to be okay as a Blue. I never understood why other people thought my color, any color, needed fixing.” - p. 130
“There's nothing wrong with your color, being you,’ he said firmly. 'Nothing wrong with what the good Lord gives us in His world, Cussy Mary.’
He didn't know, couldn't know, the load I'd carried as a Blue, the scorn and hatred and gruesome marriage. How dare Pa call me vain and now Jackson. How dare he too? ‘Nothing wrong—‘Jackson repeated.
I stepped back and shot out a shaky hand. ‘No, Jackson Lovett, you're wrong. There is nothing wrong with your color in your world, a world that wants only whiteness.” - p. 204
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It's the middle of the Depression years, 1936 in the hills of Kentucky. Cussy Mary, sometimes called Bluet, is one of the Kentucky Blues -- a clan who have actual blue skin, and are shunned for it. Cussy Mary is determined not to be limited, though, and applies via mail for a job newly created by the Federal Administration in its WPA (Works Progress Administration) program. She becomes a Pack Horse Librarian.
Her job is to deliver books to mountain families along a lonely and hard route, and she loves it, even if the two white ladies running the local depot don't approve of her, one quite vocally and cruelly.
Her pa, though, wants her to marry. After a brief, disastrous union at the beginning of the book, she becomes dedicated to her job and to supporting her pa in his secret work with the coal miners unions.
There is so much drama in this book, so many ups and downs. The historical setting is fascinating and utterly compelling; it is all based in fact, even the Blues. The look at prejudice as related to unusual conditions like that of the Blues, added to the talk of social unrest like unions, the disaster that was coal mining even then, and the WPA Pack Horse Librarian program, all equal a book that is so full of social relevance that it would be worth reading even without the wonderful descriptive writing and the fine characterizations. Lucky for readers that it has both.
This is a book that will grab you and keep you reading. Cussy Mary is a strong and sympathetic main character with the ability to keep her spirits unbowed even with all of the trauma she experiences. And despite one too many traumatic incidents crammed in during the denouement of the book, it feels like there is some hope in the conclusion. And woven throughout is the power of reading and of literature to uplift and broaden a life. If you enjoy unusual historical novels with unique characters and a warm heart of social commentary, this will be one for you.
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