The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

A Novel

Book - 2019
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"Cussy Mary Carter is the last of her kind, her skin the color of a blue damselfly in these dusty hills. But that doesn't mean she's got nothing to offer. As a member of the Pack Horse Library Project, Cussy delivers books to the hill folk of Troublesome, hoping to spread learning in these desperate times. But not everyone is so keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and the hardscrabble Kentuckians are quick to blame a Blue for any trouble in their small town. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creekis a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's determination to bring a little bit of hope to the darkly hollers"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Naperville, Illinois : Sourcebooks Landmark, c2019.
ISBN: 9781492691631
Characteristics: 308 pages ; 24 cm.


From the critics

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Aug 01, 2020

This looked like such a good book, but I didn't get past the first chapter because of language used. Usually content follows.....

IndyPL_MelindaM Jul 29, 2020

What a wonderfully researched historical fiction book! I knew about librarians on horseback but learned much more about them in this story. I also learned much more about the 1930s in Kentucky and how much control the mining companies had over the people. Cussy Mary showed such dedication to the people she served, no matter the obstacles, getting as many of the materials they needed to them as soon as she could. She fought racism, domestic abuse, and did her best to help the other impoverished people she met along the way. I found myself rooting for her and hoping and praying for many of the families she helped. The author does not shy from showing just how difficult life was and there were sections of this book that were hard to read because life was so harsh. That said, this was an interesting story that kept me up into the wee hours of the morning.

Jul 27, 2020

I love historical fiction that is so well researched. The writing may not be incredible but the story is one that needs to be retold over and over less we forget the important lessons it shares.

Jul 08, 2020

5 stars for the book, maybe 2 stars for the so-called "reviews." And I mean the ones from the alleged professional reviewers, like Publishers Weekly, not the ones from other library users. There are all kinds of spoilers before we even see the book. I think I learned in grade school that a retelling of the plot does not constitute a "review." And that spoilers are bad form. When will these so-called pros learn these basics of reviewing? Looks like the word professional only means that one gets paid, not that one is any good at one's work.

Jul 02, 2020

This is a WONDERFUL story: I loved it! It is a story about the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and about the Kentucky Pack Horse Project of Book Women who either by horse or mule or by walking or boat delivered books to people in the parts of Kentucky without libraries during the Depression. This is also a story about prejudices and fear of people who are different from us . . .and how cruel people can be .

Jun 29, 2020

This well-written historical fiction book is about the pack horse librarians who served as the first librarians in depression-era Kentucky. This reader could tell that much research had gone into writing this beautiful story. If you love books and libraries, you must not miss this one!

Apr 26, 2020

A truly well researched and well written book. Although it’s a novel, it is packed with facts. Through following the blue Pack Horse book lady, Cussy Mary, we learn about the poverty and exploitation of miners in the hills of eastern Kentucky during the 1920s and 1930s. She helplessly watched children and women die of starvation. She faced prejudice as a colored (blue) and as a woman. I highly recommend this book that takes the reader into the stark life of that time and place.

Mar 13, 2020

Historical fiction. This is one of those books I hate to return because it was so good! I want to hold onto the sense of place and culture of the remote hills of Kentucky as long as possible. The author is able to inform without leaving the story line. The book gives an intimate look at a place and way of I would never have experienced otherwise. I am grateful.

Feb 29, 2020

This well researched book weaves two topics, one of the dedicated Pack Horse Librarians and the other of the "Blues" in Kentucky. Written believably from the perspective of the main character, Mary Cussy Carter, enriches the times and place. The faithful and protective mule adds a dimension to the circle of friendships she has attracted in her travels as the Book Woman. Color matters not to those thirsty for knowledge and learning to read. A very raw picture of those living in this area in dire need of food for survival, yet finding comfort to looking forward to and depending on her visits. A very worthy read that lingers and yes, haunts after it is finished.

Feb 29, 2020

Oh my did I LOVE this book! First 5 star of the year. Combines 2 "real life" stories into one compelling novel! Cussy is a Book woman, a member of the Pack Horse Library Project in Kentucky in the 1930's.........and she is a "blue". One of the famous blue-skinned people of the hills of Kentucky. Her story kept me reading early and late! I won't say more, but get this book!

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Oct 22, 2019

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” —T. S. Eliot
The Epigraph

Oct 22, 2019

“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

Oct 22, 2019

“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

Oct 22, 2019

“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


Add a Summary
SPL_Melanie Jun 11, 2019

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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