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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

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The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is.  Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own  traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter. 

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.

313 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 7, 2019

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About the author

Kim Michele Richardson

10 books3,237 followers
The NEW YORK TIMES, LOS ANGELES TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author, Kim Michele Richardson is a multiple-award winning author and has written five works of historical fiction, and a bestselling memoir.

Her critically acclaimed novel, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a DOLLY PARTON RECOMMENDED READ, a Goodreads Choice award nominee, and has earned the 2020 PBS Readers Choice, 2019 LibraryReads Best Book, Indie Next, SIBA, Forbes Best Historical Novel, Book-A-Million Best Fiction, and is an Oprah's Buzziest Books pick and a Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads selection. It was inspired by the remarkable "blue people" of Kentucky, and the fierce, brave Packhorse Librarians who used the power of literacy to overcome bigotry, hate and fear during the Great Depression. The novel is taught widely in high schools and college classrooms.

Her fifth novel, The Book Woman’s Daughter, an instant NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY and INDIE NATIONAL bestseller, is both a stand-alone and sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

Kentucky-born native, Kim Michele Richardson, lives with her family in the Bluegrass State and is the founder of Shy Rabbit, a writer's residency scholarship.

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5 stars
84,430 (42%)
4 stars
81,463 (41%)
3 stars
26,971 (13%)
2 stars
4,317 (2%)
1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 22,543 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,308 reviews2,192 followers
May 14, 2019
When I finished this book, I thought it was such a good story and I immediately gave it four stars, but then I thought about it more as I was writing this. I thought about what a meaningful story it is, what an amazing and strong character Cussy Mary Carter is, what a realistic depiction of time and place is presented here, about how much I learned from it, how touched I was, and the wonderful way that the author blends the story of the Blue People of Kentucky with the Pack Horse Library Project. I shorty went back and gave it the five stars it deserves.

In the Appalachian hills of Kentucky in the 1930’s, the people are poverty stricken and hungry. The Pack Horse Librarian Project is established as part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration and we meet 19 year old Cussy Mary Carter, one of the Book Women, the librarians dedicated to bringing books and stories and knowledge to the people in the hills of Kentucky. She also is known as Bluet, as she is one of the Blue People of Kentucky. I found this story to be fascinating as I had never heard of the Blue People of Kentucky and I never knew about these trail blazing women, both literally and figuratively who delivered reading materials to their patrons in tough conditions.

Cussy Mary’s story angered me. She’s the victim of prejudice and racism and an early disastrous arranged marriage that her father thought would provide care for her after he was gone, which he thought would not be far off, given the years he spent in the coal mines. It’s heartbreaking as she is subjected to medical tests and evaluation to protect her and her father and to get food for the starving children at the school and heartbreaking that she seeks a “cure” for her condition so she wouldn’t be shunned and discriminated against. Her story moved me as I saw the connections she makes with her patrons, especially the children in the schoolhouse, who are hungry for food as well as for stories. She brings them more than books. She brings kindness and food when she can. She brings them hope and in some cases life.

This is a story with a fantastic depiction of time and place, and people. An example of historical fiction at its best reflecting the worst things in life such as the racism that existed then and sadly now as well and some of the best things, the kindness of people, the importance and value of the written word, the joy that Cussy Mary got out of seeing the joy she brought to them when she delivered a book. Highly recommended!

I received an advanced copy of this book from Sourcebook Landmark through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,298 reviews450 followers
May 18, 2019
I know I'm rowing against the tide in my review of this book, but my 3 stars is for the things I liked, and I'm not subtracting for the things I didn't. It was a great story with likable characters (for the most part), and I enjoyed the research and information on both the blue people of Kentucky and the Book Women who brought books and magazines to the impoverished families in the hills.

Suffice it to say that the writing was uneven, the dialect was not consistent, and the ending was a little too melodramatic for my tastes. I know lots of readers really loved this one, and I understand why, but I just couldn't get there in my rating. Not a bad book, not a great book, but I enjoyed the story.
December 29, 2020

This was an incredibly original story with a main character that I had so many feelings for! I love when a book makes me go to the internet and research, "blue people" and "book women", I had no idea that there was ever a project such as this. These women really had to love books to hand deliver them to people in the high hills of Kentucky.

My only problem with it was that it was very slowly paced. However when I thought further about it, perhaps it was written that way because that's how Cussy Mary Carter's life was. There was lots of hard work, little food, horrible living conditions and yet "Bluet" continued to love books. She was incredibly creative in making scrapbooks for her "clients" so that there would be more reading material for them. She added anything she could to her stash of books including any magazines, recipes from local people, pamphlets on infant care and treatment, etc.

This is a heartbreaker of a novel but one that should not be missed. I highly recommend it.

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,647 followers
May 14, 2019
Update: Today, May 07, 2019 is Happy Publication Date!

In the fierce, majestic mountains and hollers of Appalachian Kentucky in the 1930’s, there were many small towns and communities that were so isolated some people never saw a newspaper. Or, if they did, it was used to paper a layer to the insides of their tiny homes to help keep the weather out. Books, for the most part, were a luxury, and often only family Bibles or the odd family heirloom would be in the home.

In the 1930’s people everywhere struggled for the basics of food and shelter during The Great Depression. As part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, he set up education programs in isolated areas whereby books donated by a variety of service clubs and larger libraries could be delivered to families via horse, mule, canoe, or sometimes just walking. The program initially hired single women with the idea of giving them gainful employment and so the Pack Horse Project came into being, and the brave and inspired women came to be known as “Book Women”.

This beautifully written, warm, and touching novel is about one Book Woman who served her county in Kentucky near a small town center called Troublesome Creek for several years. It is a fictional novel, yet is based on well-researched historical facts.

Cussy Mary Carter, sometimes called “Bluet”, and sometimes called “Book Woman” is, according to her father, the last of “her kind”. Aside from all else, she is one of the rare people in the world who have congenital methemoglobinemia. Cussy Mary had the characteristic blue skin which occurs due to less oxygen in the blood. Thus, her nickname, “Bluet”. She was named “Cussy” for the town in France where her maternal great-grandfather lived before leaving for the United States.

Her story is inspiring. It is also heart-rending. Cussy Mary’s dedication to her “patrons” on her pack horse route brings her into contact with many events, some frightening, and some very touching. My heart went out to her many times during this book, and indeed, I felt such a strong bond with the people of this county in Kentucky and their children. So many of them were starved for knowledge and the sense of pride that comes from discovering that knowledge through reading. So many of them found hope in the stories of other people’s challenges and how they managed to overcome them.

This novel is very strong, and it is beautifully written. The one weak spot for me was near the beginning when Cussy Mary and her father have heated discussions about her future over a period of time. I understood the logic of both Cussy Mary and her father but I felt that their discussions could have been briefer as the long-term consequences were redeemed many times in many ways in the rest of the novel.

Aside from this minor weakness (from my perspective), this novel soared, and I am definitely interested in reading more of this writer’s work. I admit to both horror followed by tears of happiness and happy tears followed by horror over the time frame of this novel. The ending was excellent, except for one thing: by then I was so immersed in these people’s lives, I wanted to stay there and learn more of their stories.

4.5 Stars

With gratitude to Sourcebook Landmark and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review an ARC of this novel. Its publication date is May 07, 2019.
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,196 reviews3,033 followers
July 9, 2022
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (Author), Katie Schorr (Narrator)

It's 1936, in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, and nineteen year old Cussy Mary Carter is one of Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project's traveling librarians. These brave and stubborn women face the weather, rough terrain, unsavory characters, and all manner of dangers on their daily routes to deliver books and other reading material to the poor and starving in this area. Cussy has the added danger of being the last blue skinned person in her family, other than her ailing father. Cussy and her family had been born with blue skin and fear and prejudices put them on the lowest rung of humans, in the minds of the racist people in the area. They have no rights, are banned from almost every place, and can be injured or killed by a white person without any recourse from the law.

Because of their blue skin, Cussy's job as a traveling librarian is even more dangerous than it would be for a white skinned person but Cussy loves her job and her patrons and she and her father need the money she makes to survive. Her coal miner dad is at the end of his days, with the sickness from the coal mines dragging him down more each day. But for all of Cussy and her dad's hardships, others are worse off, with starvation, illness, and poverty killing babies, kids, and entire families, in this mountain area.

The plight of the girls and women of this time, especially those living in poverty and more so, those who are not white, is unbelievably bleak. Food and medicine could save so many of these people but they have nothing at all, subsisting on watery soups made out of weeds and grass, just to make it to another day. Cussy and her reading material is often the only bright spot in their lives and it's amazing the hope, love, and compassion that Cussy brings to her patrons while she is fighting heartache, very clear danger from those who would like to kill her, and the fear that the mines could kill her father on any day.

This story encouraged me to learn more about the blue skinned people and the traveling librarians. That so many children and families lived literally dirt poor, starving until they died, with little or no help, is a hard truth to accept, but we see, in this story, that the poorest can be the most generous, in hard times. This was a hard book to read/hear but I did enjoy the story.

Pub May 7, 2019
Profile Image for Linda.
1,285 reviews1,329 followers
June 11, 2019
Troublesome Creek......an almost misnomer of limited location to the backwoods of Kentucky. Seems that Troublesome holds no boundaries and its edges of tainted water overflow onto humanity. An attitude, a prejudice, an indescribable hate that still visits upon shores.

Kim Michele Richardson presents a beautifully rendered story of life in the hills and the mountains of Kentucky in 1936 in which women, and sometimes men, endeavored to deliver reading materials to the folk in Roosevelt's Pack Horse Library Project.

We meet Cussy Mary Carter who lives with her father in the cabin that he built for them years ago. Pa heads out each day to work the mines which continue to take a heavy toll on his health and wellbeing. His only wish is for Cussy to marry and be well taken care of after he's gone. Cussy only wishes to continue in the work that she loves as the "Book Woman" greeted warmly by those living in the hills.

And here is where Richardson layers her story with the reality of perceived "difference". Cussy and her father are the last of the Blue Kentuckians whose skin has taken on a genuine blue hue passed from generation to generation because of a recessive gene. It's been documented by those in the medical field. Because of her unusual skin color, Cussy and those like her, are shunned and ridiculed by the town's people and denoted as "colored". They are not allowed to participate in town functions.

We will come to find that Cussy's heart beats to a rhythm of compassion beneath the blueness of her skin. Her relationships with the simple folk of the hills and her intense dedication to the needs of these people are at the core of this storyline.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek left me with the thought of how books come in all sizes, envelop weighty pages or parade out brevity, cover a multitude of differing genres, penned by individuals of various backgrounds, and are wrapped in intricate printed and artistically developed covers or in plain one-hued ones. Ancient, torn, shredded or newly published out of the box......and we embrace them all and clutch them to our chests. And yet, humanity which is so far more precious, is scrutinized, judged, and relegated to separate shelves for not fitting into the "designated" model.

Kim Michele Richardson has created quite the read here. Indifference weaves its way in from the earliest of times and places and still takes root in hearts so hardened from generation to generation.
There's plenty of room for all in this volume of life in which words should be written with the ink of supreme kindness.
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
383 reviews1,768 followers
September 13, 2019
Cussy is a pack horse librarian and she delivers books to people that live in the mountains of Kentucky. She has blue skin. The year is 1936 and the setting takes place in the Appalachian Mountains into the woods of Troublesome Creek. Cussy is a nineteen year old and she is the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. She suffers from a hereditary condition called methemoglobinemia. There is a lot of poverty in this town and it was so heartbreaking. Their life is so tough. The people there are so desperate for her books. They can't wait for Cussy to show up with their books. She lifts up their spirits with the pleasure of reading.

I never knew that there were blue skinned people that use to live in the mountains of Kentucky. I was astonished and had to Google about the blue skinned people in Kentucky and the pack horse librarians. This book is based on historical fact.

The book started out with a slow burn in the beginning and then it picks up. I really loved this book and loved the beautiful writing and I felt like I was there in the Appalachian Mountains. There were some dark parts too which surprised me. I loved the characters especially Cussy. She was such a strong heroine and went out of her way to help others. There was a lot of racism and prejudice in this book and I would get so mad how they were treated. The ending was very dramatic.

This was a Traveling Friends read.

I want to thank Edelweiss, Sourcebooks Landmark, and the author for the Arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Debra .
2,415 reviews35.2k followers
October 31, 2019
"To handle yourself, use your head, to handle others use your heart." - Eleanor Roosevelt

My favorite kinds of books are those that not only draw me in but educate me, cause me to feel and to think. This one fit the bill perfectly. Not only did I learn more about the Blue People of Kentucky and their rare genetic trait, but I also learned more about the Pack Horse library project which was the brainstorm of Eleanor Roosevelt. According to openculture.com "Sixty -three percent of people who lived in Kentucky during the Great Depression were without access to libraries and approximately. thirty percent of those living in rural Kentucky were illiterate."

This story follows Cussy Carter, the last female of the Blue People Ancestry. Trying to fulfill her duties as a traveling librarian, she must also deal with prejudice, danger, a horrible arranged marriage, and those wanting to perform medical tests on her.

This is an engaging book of historical fiction which not only shows the goodness of people as demonstrated by Cussy and her sacrifices for others and the ugliness of people as shown by those who were prejudiced and openly ugly to those deemed unworthy or less than due to the color of his/her skin.

I found this book to be well written, thought-provoking, educational, riveting and perfectly paced.

Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
249 reviews982 followers
January 21, 2020
I loved this book. LOVED IT.

This is the story of Cussy Mary Carter, a traveling "book woman" in Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. She traverses the rough Appalachians to deliver books to the people who reside in the hills and would otherwise not have access to any sort of reading material. Cussy is also "a blue," the last in her family line with a rare genetic blood disorder that turns her skin a pale shade of blue.

The writing is absolutely stunning -- lyrical . . . poetic, even. I was utterly swept away to another moment in history by the dialect, the setting, the characters.

This is also a story of prejudice, poverty, and courage. It will make you laugh. It will make you angry. It will make you cry. It will make you FEEL.

This book will always be with me, close to my heart.
Profile Image for Bianca.
1,080 reviews917 followers
June 17, 2020
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is about a young woman, Cussy Mary Carter, also named Bluet, who worked for the Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky, delivering books and other reading materials to people up in the hills and mountains around Troublesome Creek in the 1930s.

Cussy is a special young woman, in many ways - her skin is blue, her blood is like chocolate. She and her father are the last people with this condition, a rare genetic disorder. Her father is a miner and they barely scrape by. The area is quite poor, with many illiterate people and high mortality rates. Cussy is very dedicated and loves her patrons, she loves to facilitate the education of people who otherwise wouldn't have had any opportunities to get reading material. Her kindness and devotion break through some people's prejudices. Of course, that's not always the case and she encounters oppression, derision and abuse on many occasions.

I had never heard of the Blue people of Kentucky, so I appreciated learning about them. The Pack Horse Library Project was a wonderful outreach initiative I had no knowledge of.

While these two aspects anchored the novel, a few issues prevented my full immersion into the story. Cussy is the narrator of this novel. Nothing wrong with it, except that her voice was inconsistent - sometimes the dialogue sounded more authentic, with dialect, especially from people sounding uneducated, as they were supposed to be, but it waned and then came back as if the author suddenly remembered who her characters were so she'd throw in some colloquialisms.

Cussy was too saintly. She sounded way too sophisticated for someone so young and uneducated.

As the story progressed, the middle part that involved Mary's tracking to her patrons was quite repetitive.

The last chapters turn into a full-blown soap opera, way too melodramatic for my liking.

In conclusion, this had the makings of a great historical novel, but its incongruences and the melodrama made it just an okay read for me.

I've received this novel via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Debbie W..
760 reviews566 followers
February 27, 2021
Since reading the picture book That Book Woman by Heather Henson a few years ago, my interest in the pack-horse librarian project has lead me to listen to Jojo Moyes's The Giver of Stars and now recently, Richardson's The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I have heard controversy about the two books being very similar and were only published a few months apart. The only similarities that I noticed were:
1. both are about the pack-horse librarians of Kentucky;
2. both have a love interest; and
3. both have some form of conflict (Which novel doesn't? LOL!).
Although I enjoyed Moyes's version, I preferred Richardson's TBWOTC. Throughout the book she emphasizes the trials and tribulations that courageous 19-year-old pack-horse librarian, Cussy Carter, dealt with, such as: terrain, weather, wild animals, financial woes, poverty and mistrustful people, as well as the racism she endured as a blue-skinned person, all the while intent on delivering reading material to the people living in the remote hills of Kentucky. The satisfaction she received when her patrons, including schoolchildren, looked forward to her arrival, sharing their reading accomplishments, which outweighed all of her hardships. Also integral to the story is Cussy's genetic condition of being a rare blue-skinned person and her, and other people's, attitude towards it.
Richardson's "Author's Note" describes her extensive research into the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, the pack-horse librarian project, and even courting candles - all very impressive, leading me to Google these subjects. Also, her use of figurative speech was to my liking, and her charming characteristics of Cussy's stubborn mule, Junia, made for some lighthearted reading. This book brought out a lot of emotions in me. I look forward to reading other books by this author!
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,781 reviews14.2k followers
May 14, 2019
From the beginning I adored Cussy or Bluet as she is called by some. A pack librarian in the Kentucky Appalachians, she delivers books to folks living in the hollers. As part of FDRs work program, she rides her mule and delivers her books. This is depression era, 1930' and people are struggling, making them look forward to the books, newspapers or magazines she brings. Some cannot read, so she reads to them, some are just learning to read, and some just look st the picture She is in all ways wonderful. She and her father consider themselves to be the last of the blue people of Kentucky, a genetic trait passed on, but they don't know this yet. Their father and daughter relationship is a close one, and a joy to behold.

They are considered colored, treated just as badly by some as the blacks. Bigotry and discrimination is something she faces daily. The author does a fantastic job showing us the past in this region, using regional dialect snd wonderful descriptions of the fauna, the hills, and the local characters. She will go through many obstacles of personal matters, but her faith and love of the written word is a message she joyfully spreads.

The book starts off rather slowly, and there are parts that are more sentimental then I usually like. Yet, her story, her character and the actual history related in this book, made those few qualms, inconsequential. The authors note explains the genetics involved in their coloring, as well as an explanation of the historical references. This is a book that shows, not tells and one feels as if they are traveling with Cussy on her personal and professional travels. A very heartfelt story.

ARC from Netgalley.
1,642 reviews92 followers
October 13, 2019
Once again, I am the odd one out with this novel. Although I enjoyed learning about this very rare genetic condition that causes skin to have a blue hue and about the mobile libraries on mule back bringing old books and magazines to rural Appalachia, I thought the story was overly sweet and predictable, the writing clichéd and the characters insufficiently complex. I foresaw the ending about 10% into the book. Characters were either good and strong, or cruel, prejudiced and religious. The reader was reminded and reminded and reminded again of the narrator’s blue coloring, of people’s prejudices, of the brutal conditions in the mines and similar facts. These were not shown to us but told to us. And, of course, all the good people, including the children, loved to read, preferred it to play, or food, or parental approval or hunting and fishing. I am glad to see books so appreciated and can understand why the rare thing would have heightened appeal, but wouldn’t there be some people, some kids who just did not take to reading? The scene with the dying boy was just so over the top.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,987 followers
October 9, 2020
I recently read The Giver of Stars and I guess there was some controversy between the two because they have similar subject matter and came out close to each other. Since this one came out first, there have even been some suggestions of idea stealing on the part of Moyes. I wanted to be sure to read this one, too, so I could give my opinion on the matter.

My conclusion: the horseback librarians of Kentucky were a real thing that suddenly more than one author was interested in making a backdrop for their story. Much like the spy women of World War I and II have been a hot topic lately, it seems like these librarians have what it takes to make an interesting novel. I found the two books to be different enough that I did not feel like I had read a carbon copy. And, the fact that I just noticed another book with a similar background has been released (The Librarian of Boone's Hollow) just goes to show that this is prime literary real estate right now.

How does this one rate? If I was to compare to the Moyes offering, I like The Giver of Stars a bit better; smoother delivery, more interesting characters, richer story development, etc. But, by itself, this was still a very good and interesting book. The main focus of this story is the fact that the main character is blue: a condition sometimes seen in the rural people of Kentucky in the 1800s and early 1900s. Because of this, she is treated with the same prejudice (and sometimes worse) than the black members of the community. The various situations this condition got her in really makes you think.

This book is worth checking out. I can't say how you will feel it compares to other, similar titles. But, so far, I have enjoyed both of the ones I have read.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,232 reviews25 followers
May 9, 2020
Unpopular opinion time: I hated this book. I don't think it has a single redeeming quality and I only finished it because I wanted to be able to say that with complete certainty.

The writing: I don't think this is even close to well-written. Richardson writes the whole thing in the vernacular, which I understand is a style choice, but it's one I hated (also hate that Cussy's father calls her Daughter all the time, but that's neither here nor there). The dialogue was so stilted and inauthentic I could hardly stand it. Instead of explaining things in the narration, it would be explained in the dialogue and it never felt natural. But the biggest issue with the writing is the pacing. It's so bad! Nothing would happen for chapters and then all of a sudden, a bunch of action for about 10 pages, then nothing happens for another 50! And the parts in between the action were often so boring! Great authors can pull you in and show without telling, and Richardson doesn't do that. There was way too much telling and not enough showing in this book. Which brings me to the story itself.

The story: I see a lot of people saying it's too much of a romance, and to those people I say, "you've clearly never read a romance." Romance does not equal melodrama, which is actually what this book is. It was somehow simultaneously sappy and depressing and I rolled my eyes so often throughout reading that at one point I thought I would lose them to the back of my head. The love story (if you can call it that, and I don't) was also ridiculous. Jackson and Cussy are on page together a total of what, four times, and the reader is supposed to believe they're in love? They barely ever talked! There was no chemistry and there certainly wasn't any romance. And why does Richardson choose to completely gloss over the aspects of the story that could make for more interesting and well developed characters like marital rape and abortion (which, by the way is not a spoiler because it happens within the first few chapters and then is completely ignored for the rest of the book)!

The characters: for a book this long, I would expect well developed characters and story lines, but again, that was not the case. All of the characters are two dimensional and surface level with not a single nuance between any of them. Everyone in this book is either a sinner (evil) or a saint (good) and there is no in-between. The only character who may have had a semblance of depth was the doctor, but that really read more as a split personality. I didn't care about any of them at all, because I didn't know any of them, even Cussy, whose head you're inside for the whole book!

Beating a dead horse: this heading is for the fact that Richardson spent 300 pages beating the same three ideas to death. Number 1: The people in this story are poor and starving. That was probably true, but honestly, I didn't need to be reminded every third page. Some subtlety would have been nice. Number 2: Books are the best thing ever and everyone loved the librarians and that program was the only thing these people lived for. I love books and I believe that for some people in that place and era, that is what they lived for, but everyone? The way Richardson would wax poetic about everyone's love of the written word eventually just got on my nerves. I get it! Number 3: and this is the biggie for me, is the blue thing. I am quite sure that the blue people of Kentucky did face severe discrimination and life was harder for them than some others. And I understand how Cussy as a character would be constantly dealing with that (although again, a little subtlety wouldn't have hurt, I was sick of hearing how she was blue by about chapter 5), but Richardson takes it a step further and appears to try to conflate being blue with being Black. Going so far as to capitalizing Blue like a race, but not Black. She goes so far as to say, "It was difficult being colored, much less my odd, ugly color and the last color of my kind." Is Richardson seriously trying to imply that the blue people were worse off than Black people? In rural Kentucky? During the Depression? I don't buy it. And, if it is true, where is the research to back it up? Richardson writes an author's note at the end, trying to make clear how much she's researched, but there's no mention of where she gets the idea that they were treated worse than Blacks. And while I'll admit, she never comes right out and says it in the book, she definitely comes right up to the line on that and I didn't like it. The blue skin is a medical condition, but they are not another race.

I know this is a super popular book and people love it, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone. If you're really interested in learning more about the blue people of Kentucky, find a nonfiction book.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,168 reviews37.3k followers
January 18, 2020
5 Fabulous & Wondrous Stars!

My First 5 Star Read of the 2020! Oh What a Brilliant Read! Thank you to my Goodreads Friend Angela, for putting this on her Best of Goodreads list for 2019 and reminding me that I needed to read it!

Cussy Mary Carter is an employee of the Pack Horse Librarian Project, delivering books to the people of Kentucky by horse. She is also the last female of the Blue People ancestry, in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky.

Everyone calls her Bluet, for the color of her skin.

Let me just say that Cussy Mary stole my heart. She is endearing, sassy and oh so smart. Never given a fair shake, treated kindly or knowing what it’s like to have a friend, somehow, Cussy Mary wakes up every day and is basically a happy person. She is extremely kind, gracious and selfless and goes out of her way to give to others, when frankly she and her Pa have very little. If only everyone could be as wonderful and forgiving as Cussy Mary.

Even after being subjected to medical experiments because of her race, Cussy Mary takes it in stride, which I don’t think anyone else would ever do.

Though this novel focused on a few extremely difficult subjects such as discrimination and prejudice, I am astounded at what the author, Kim Michelle Richardson was able to accomplish. This story, all of the characters, the history that was included in this novel, was all intertwined in such a way that completely stole my heart. I fell in love with Cussy Mary and am so glad that I read this novel. It will most definitely be on my Goodreads Best of List for 2020!

If you know me, you know that I hardly ever research the topics broached in the novels that I read, but this novel intrigued me and immediately took me to google. As it turns out, the Blue Fugates or Blue People of Kentucky, settled in Hazard Kentucky in the 1800’s, eventually settling in Troublesome Creek in the 20th Century. Hematologist Madison Cawein III did in fact use Methylene Blue to treat some Blue Fugate family members and it did reduce their coloring. He published his research in the Archives of Family Medicine in 1964. There is currently one last living descendant of the Blue Fugates or Blue People of Kentucky: Benjamin Stacy, born in 1975 (he’s only a year younger than me!). The Pack Horse Librarian Project took place in the Appalachian Mountains between 1935 and 1943, serving 100,000 people and 155 schools among 30 libraries. Librarians were called, “Book Women,” “Book Ladies,” and “Packsaddle Librarians.”

If you are looking for a brilliant character study with a fabulous story to boot, based on real characters, I implore you to read this brilliant piece of fiction.

A huge thank you again to my friend Angela for putting this on her Best of List for 2019. I absolutely LOVED it.

Thank you also to my local library for lending me a copy and to Kim Michelle Richardson for writing an astounding novel!

Published on Goodreads on 1.18.20.
October 13, 2019
Please check out our Q & A with Kim Michele Richardson. She shared some insight into her research and to her story with us. We could feel her passion and love for her story.

Follow this link to see what she had to say


My review

Kim Michele Richardson brings us a unique, fascinating, impressive, unforgettable story here that explores a part of history in Kentucky that is not well known or forgotten. She weaves some history along with fiction to create a vivid and strong sense of place and time here with the “Blue People" and the Pack Horse Library Project. She creates a strong, dedicated, brave and memorable character Cussy Mary know as The Book Women or Bluet

Cussy Mary is the last living “blue people” who works as a traveling librarian in 1930 Appalcahis. She brings joy with books, medicine, messages and hope to people when times are heartbreaking tough. She travels with her mule Junia who becomes a strong and interesting character and she really pops out of the pages. I enjoyed the relationships that Cussy builts are she travels her route. My heart went out to the people and I felt the power of words with each. 

The story also explores the racial intolerance of a society who feel threatened by the things they don’t understand. The prejudice and racism stirred up some strong emotions for me and again I found myself yelling at the characters. As upsetting as it was Cussy Mary has an engaging strong voice and through her it was easy to connect with her. I felt for her and could see the person who she was under her blue skin. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Lindsay L.
679 reviews1,323 followers
September 8, 2019
4.5 stars!

Heartbreaking and heartwarming storyline. Inspiring and unforgettable characters. Exquisitely stunning prose. Engrossingly palpable atmosphere. A beautiful book that tugged at my heart strings. I loved every single page of this novel.

Cussy is a young woman living in the remote hills of Kentucky with her coal miner father. She is known as the last blue-skinned woman. Growing up as an outcast in her village, she is used to being shunned and belittled. She takes on a job with the Pack Horse Library Project, bringing literature to those in rural and remote areas around her. She travels on her beloved mule, Junia, who was a stand out character in this book.

Though the atmosphere, storyline and writing is exceptional and unforgettable, the characters were simply outstanding for me in this novel. They got to me - whether it was me loving them, hating them or something in between - I connected. They were so real and emotion-inducing, I felt like I truly knew them.

The writing was stunning. It engrossed me from the start and flowed so smoothly. The local language and slang seemed so true to the times - I could hear the drawl as I read.

What Cussy faced and endured was unimaginable, yet she stayed strong and determined to make a difference. She was such an inspiration and interesting character.

This was a Traveling Sister read that we all adored! We had the honour of hosting an Author Q & A with Kim Michele which was such a treat! She answered all of our questions and provided much detail on her writing process. Check out our blog for more details on that exciting experience.

Thank you to Brenda for sending me her copy of this amazing novel! I highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Fran.
661 reviews630 followers
February 17, 2019
Cussy Mary Carter was arguably the last "blue skinned person" in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. The year, 1936. Living in a backwoods, one-room log house, life was a struggle for the nineteen year old and her pa, a coal miner. Pa lit a "courting candle", intent upon making sure Cussy "will knot". Suitors would come and go wanting "a surety" that their progeny would not be blue. Cussy, nicknamed "Bluet", was subjected to taunts, prejudice and continuous ridicule due to her cobalt-blue skin color. Her rare condition called methemoglobinemia caused decreased oxygenation in the blood producing blue skin. She was socially isolated, treated like an outcast.

President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal included educational programs with the aim of bringing books to a poverty stricken populace living in hollers and backwoods. The Pack Horse Library was born. Single women could apply to deliver books, newspapers and magazines by horse, mule, boat and on foot. Cussy Mary aka Bluet knew that it was unlikely she would find a suitor. "I didn't have myself an escape until I'd gotten the precious book route". Bluet rode through dangerous passes, dark hollers, and forded creeks "toting a pannier full of books" carried by her trusty old mule, Junia.

"Book Woman" another moniker for Cussy Mary, delivered hope to children and adults starving for learning. Children were "...as hungry for the stories in those books as they were for the food that always seemed sparse in this real land". Book Woman was unaware of the positive impact she had on library patrons on her book route. Her acts of kindness were in direct contrast to the reception she received at her once monthly visit to library headquarters. She arrived in town wearing a big brimmed bonnet to escape the stares and pointed fingers of the townsfolk.

"The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek" by Kim Michele Richardson is a magnificent, well written work of historical fiction. As a child, I remember my delight when the "Book Bus" visited my school. We could examine the shelved books and choose two books from the lending library. Dial back to the 1930's. Pack Horse Librarians like Cussy Mary were true pioneers addressing illiteracy. "Folks here are hungry...folks tell me the books ease their burdens...". Kudos to Kim Michele Richardson for a 5* star read I highly recommend.

Thank you SOURCEBOOKS Landmark and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek".
Profile Image for Karen.
593 reviews1,198 followers
May 14, 2019
I enjoyed this story so much!

The Pack Horse Library Project was established in 1935 by President Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration... an effort to bring jobs to women and bring books and reading material to the poor and isolated areas of Appalachia, where there were few schools and inaccessible roads.

Cussy Mary was one of these women who had a route.. she was 19 yrs old, a coal miner’s daughter, who’s father was trying to marry her off, because he had the bad lung from mining, and wanted her to have someone to care for her.
Cussy didn’t want that because she loved being The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky... and she earned her own wages from doing that. She was also so good hearted and tried to help the people on her route.

Also, she and her Pa were “blue” people. Lots of people nicknamed her Bluet, for that reason.
I’d never heard about these Blue People of Kentucky...they were considered “colored” people and were treated horribly just like the blacks.

I learned new things in history from this beautiful book, and myself, being the granddaughter of a West Virginia coal miner.. extra interesting!

Thank you to Netgalley and to Sourcebooks Landmark for the ARC!
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12.7k followers
September 6, 2019
Fascinating, powerful, and moving!

THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by KIM MICHELE RICHARDSON is an interesting, heartfelt, beautiful, and informative story that is packed full of well-researched historical content that I personally never knew about before. Although this story depicts place, people, and time extremely well it had me curious to pop onto the internet numerous times to do a little bit of searching of my own. I had no clue about the “blue people” of Kentucky and the Pack Horse Library Project.

KIM MICHELLE RICHARDSON delivers an original, bold, entertaining and well-written read here that has us following right alongside Cussy Mary as she delivers much-loved books to her patrons. Cussy Mary, also known as Bluet and the Book Woman was such a caring, selfless, strong, and brave character. Some of the scenes in this book were extremely hard to take and so hard to believe that people were treated the way they were for being a different colour. Just about broke my heart!

The story in itself was extremely enlightening and comes with a powerful message but I would have enjoyed it a little bit more if it had a different ending. There was so much heartbreak that gave me a heavy heart and I needed an uplifting and happy ending to totally satisfy me.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover: Totally fascinated by the cover which definitely enticed me to pick up this book. I absolutely love the beautiful old-fashioned, country feel to the cover and it is such a meaningful and effective representation to storyline.
Title: Enticing, intriguing, appealing, and such a meaningful representation to storyline.
Writing/Prose: Well-written, entertaining, and engaging.
Plot: Engrossing, interesting, heartfelt, moving, powerful, thought-provoking, fascinating, well-researched, enlightening, steady-paced, and entertaining.
Ending: A traumatic and dramatic end that left me a little bit spent and unsatisfied. Although I do believe that it was a realistic and historically correct end though.
Overall: Even though I was a tiny bit disappointed in the end it was still an extremely worthwhile, entertaining, and unforgettable read. Would recommend!

Review can also be found on Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee Reading book blog:
Profile Image for Nicole.
749 reviews1,935 followers
May 20, 2021
3.5 stars

I mostly read this book because of The Giver of Stars since many claimed Moyes copied Richardson. While I don't think this is the case here (too close release date and completely different stories other than the protagonist(s) are packhorse librarians from Kentucky during the same era), they do have similar premises. The Giver of Stars is a short soap opera with lots of drama and well, useless events. Enjoyable and interesting, sure but the fact remains that it became overdramatic at some point. Meanwhile, Richardson not only writes about the packhorse librarians (and it was the first time I hear of this project or Eleanor Roosevelt) but also the blue people of Kentucky. I haven't heard of them before coming across this book! This is exactly why I love historical fiction. Tells us history in a format I can stomach and enjoy.

While Moyes chose to focus on women “working” and how society perceives them, Richardson tackled the racism and discrimination against the blue people of Kentucky + a woman working adding new value to her book. More so, I haven’t done any research about this project but I always surprised how books were easy to come by in tGoS. In book woman, there was a shortage of books and not enough to satisfy everyone, which I found a lot more realistic considering the poverty in those times.

Objectively speaking, this is a good book, well written, and sheds light on a problem many of us were unaware it happened at some point. Still, I couldn’t connect deeply with the characters. Cussy was independent and strong-willed. I also liked Jackson and Queenie (not sure of the correct pronunciation since I listened to the audio). But I wasn’t as emotionally invested in this book as would’ve liked. Nonetheless, I think all of the fans of Moyes book should give it a try as well as those who found the concept interesting but didn’t like the characters and their personal arcs. I do not think it'll make readers who got very emotional reading the Giver of Stars (although the topics it deals with are more serious) feel as much.

As for the audiobook, it was good. The narrator’s voice fits Cussy, especially since this book was told from one perspective, Cussy’s, and using the first person. So if you’re into audiobooks and curious about this one, don’t worry it was well-narrated.

Overall, it was an interesting read and I certainly think it’s better than tGoS which is a lot more popular on Goodreads. I do hope more people read this book too and discover more about the blue people of Kentucky and was they faced.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,076 reviews59k followers
December 20, 2021
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson is a 2019 Sourcebooks Landmark publication.

In 1930s Kentucky, Cussy Mary, born with a genetic condition that gives her a blue tinged skin color, is very content with her job working for the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service. She lives with her widowed father, a coal miner, who, after a series of disastrous attempts to settle Cussy into married life, he allows her to continue to do what she loves best, delivering books to the hill people of East Kentucky.

Unfortunately, Cussy’s blue skin has the pastor claiming ‘Bluets’ are demonic, and he plans to put an end to them.

A local doctor gives Cussy a chance to escape an inevitable bad ending with the pastor, if she will agree to medical testing to determine the reason for her unusual blue coloring.

Cussy’s journey is a difficult one, but she is a fighter, a survivor- and she resolved to help others worse off than herself, rather than give in or give up. Her life wasn’t a fairytale- she continues to face hardships and setbacks, but her spirit and resolve is unbreakable.

I loved this story. It is hard to read sometimes, but there is so much to learn from Cussy’s experiences and from her character.

The author did a fabulous job of placing the reader in the time and place of 1930s Appalachia.

The dialogue and vernacular are well-researched, and I learned all about the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service- something I was not aware of, and about the genetics that caused Cussy’s blue hued skin- again something I was completely ignorant of.

While the conclusion is not necessarily all wrapped up in a nice neat little bow, it was enough for me. I have faith that Cussy and her little family will find their way and am looking forward to the continuance of this saga, soon.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,181 reviews30.5k followers
July 9, 2019
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was a story I savored. The experience of reading it is one I won’t soon forget. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

In the 1930s, Cussy Mary Carter is living in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. Her skin is blue, and she is considered “colored” at the time. She’s lonely, and she works hard as a Pack Horse Librarian running books to people in the hills and mountains that would have no access to books if not for her and her loyal pack mule, Junia.

I should also mention Cussy Mary’s Pa works in the coal mines and is rather ill but still working arduously to provide meager food for the pair.

Throughout the book, the reader travels alongside Cussy Mary as she visits her various patrons and delivers their carefully curated books, which are in short supply, often heavily used, but so well-loved by Cussy Mary and the recipients.

Cussy is passionate about her job and literacy. She sees it as the key to be a better way of life for her community. Not only that, it’s a true escape from the dire conditions in which they live.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a beautifully-rendered, poignant novel powering the reader through a mix of emotions. You will love Cussy Mary. You will love her Pa. You will fall for Junia who has more personality than some people I know. She’s quite the character!

You will come to know the hills of Kentucky and its hardscrabble people during this difficult time. But you will also come to know, as you already do, dear reader, that books empower those who have been deprived and instill hope to the weary and lost. Priceless.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek will be a novel I remember from the summer of 2019. The experience of reading it and its endearing characters will always be carried with me. I save room for the best kinds of books to do just that.

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Kay ☼.
2,031 reviews764 followers
January 22, 2022
I love what I learn from historical fiction novels like this one. Although I've read about the blue people of Kentucky online some time ago, I didn't know about Pack Horse Library (think Bookmobile today). How wonderful was that! ❤️🚌

1936, Troublesome Creek - Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. This is a moving and poignant story about Cussy Mary Carter, a blue nineteen-year-old girl who's been mistreated but found a purpose in life with books. I thoroughly enjoy the little detail which greatly enhanced the atmosphere of life in poverty during the time. I felt the author did extensive research on the subject. I probably should have gone with reading a printed book, the audio was average.

The Pack Horse Library Project was established in 1935 and ran until 1943. The service was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) and an effort to create jobs for women and bring books and reading material into Appalachia, into the poorest and most isolated areas in eastern Kentucky that had few schools, no libraries, and inaccessible roads. (p. 289-290)
Profile Image for Tina.
540 reviews918 followers
October 30, 2020
What a heartfelt and very important book! I listened to the audio and the narrator's voice was perfect for Cussy Mary. This book was beautifully written and researched.

It is 1936 and Cussy Mary lives in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She is a pack horse librarian who delivers books to the poor people of the Appalachian Mountains. 📚🐴 Each week they look forward to her visits and books. She is a shining ray of light to them. Cussy herself lives a very hard life. She has been nicknamed, "Blueit" because of the colour of her skin. She suffers from a hereditary blood disorder that makes her skin blue. She endures much prejudice but is a kind and giving soul.

I did not even know about this condition or that there ever were "blue skinned" people living in the mountains of Kentucky. I was fascinated to learn more about them and their condition. I must admit that I also had never heard of the U.S. Government funded Pack Horse Librarians program either. What a clever idea to link these two stories together.

This was a very interesting story to listen to but also very hard at times as there was much racism and discrimination featured in the book. There were some dark bits but Cussy Mary's kind heartedness made this a joy to listen to.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,155 followers
June 19, 2019
A 2019 Favorite!

Thanks to President Roosevelt's NEW DEAL and WPA (Works Progress Administration) program, horse and mule riding librarians took to the remote backroads, more like overgrown trails through the woods and mud-packed steep mountains delivering and talking books. Such hunger for books....and food in the midst of the GREAT depression.

It's 1936 Kentucky when we first meet 19 year old Cussy Mary Carter and her pa who desperately wants to see her hitched and cared for....because he promised her ma....because of his black lung illness from working the mines.

So pa continues to set out the courting candle....to Mary's chagrin, but there ain't many takers even with a dowry of $5 and 10 acres bc Mary is one of the blue people....mistreated, misunderstood and kept at arm's length.

Nicknamed Bluet, Mary loves her freedom and job delivering and reading her books....even teaches some of her patrons to read, those who do not fear her color.

Mary is good people, generous and a fighter, and together with her old grey mule Junia delivers books, recipes, patterns and messages deep into the woods....even as she is being watched and hunted. (good creep factor)

This wonderful work of historical fiction is a page-turner of a story, so interesting and informative, about the tough and dangerous job of the pack horse librarians and blue people of the Appalachians.

Loved this one! Highly Recommend!

***Many thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark via NetGalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review***

Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,321 reviews2,143 followers
April 6, 2021
This is a fascinating book full of historical facts that I never knew before. I love discovering new information from my fiction reads.

The book woman of Troublesome Creek is someone very rare - a member of the blue people of Kentucky. This was real. As a result of inbreeding some people developed a rare blood condition which meant their skin was blue and their blood was brown. At a time when white was the only colour to be, these blue skinned people were shunned as 'coloured' and excluded from most things.

On the other hand our book woman, Cussy, was able to join the Pack Horse Library project as a travelling librarian which gave her whole life a purpose. Life for Cussy and everyone around her was truly hard - no money, no food, children starving to death as a frequent event. The book does not hold back.

I did wish the author had opted for a different ending. By that point I had had enough misery and I would have enjoyed a less traumatic finish. That's just me - I always love a happy ending. I am giving it four stars and recommend it for anyone who likes to discover new things from their historical fiction.
Profile Image for Liz.
2,140 reviews2,757 followers
May 14, 2020
Life was inhospitable to everyone in the Kentucky bills of 1936, but even more so for the Blue people. Treated even worse than blacks, they were viewed with suspicion and prejudice. Shunned as if they were evil spirits. Cussy Mary Carter is a book woman, part of the Pack Horse Library Project. She’s also the last of the Blue people.
This isn’t a fast paced book. In parts, it dragged. Not the best pick as an audio selection. But it is heartfelt, as Cussy is plagued by hunger, the threat of violence and even the lack of human touch. Treated like a freak, even by the so called intelligent doctors.
Richardson does a good job of presenting us with the hardship of the hills- the black lung, the ever present hunger, the abject poverty, the lack of education. How little these people had. But there were some real glimpses of kindness and mercy, especially from Cussy herself.
This story made me furious. In a perfect world, the prejudice that’s presented here would be firmly in the past. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Ignorance seems just as prevalent today as then. The book will tug at your heartstrings and bring forth a full range of emotions.
Kudos to Richardson for the excellent research she did to write this book and bring this story of both the Blue people and the Pack Horse Library Project to light.
Katie Schorr does a great job narrating this story, with a perfect Kentucky accent.

Profile Image for Southern Lady Reads.
442 reviews589 followers
February 3, 2023
As a proud Kentuckian myself, I’m so grateful to Kim Michele Richardson for writing this book and showcasing beautiful parts of our state's much-overlooked history. This is the first book to make me cry in 2023, and I would encourage everyone to read it! 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤😢

You may have heard that quote by Happy Chandler – “I never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking about going home or actually going home.” And it’s absolutely true. If you’re a part of these lush green hills, you’ll never want to leave. (I can’t even be around flat landscapes for very long. Makes me feel exposed! 😂) This review is long.. but if it’s the only time you ever think of Kentuckians and actively learn something about its hard-working people – then I’m just fine with that.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (TBWOTC) takes place during the Great Depression in the late 1930s of Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains. Cussy Carter is one of the brave women taking up the trails for the Pack Horse Library Project to bring light and literacy to her neighbors. While trying to take care of her pa, who works much too hard in the coal mines of Kentucky, and battling deep superstitions that lace through the mountain is a story of how good and right prevail in the end.

- My biggest draw from this book is that these women/men who were traveling horseback librarians expanded literacy in a time when most forgot about the mountain people of Kentucky. I don’t know how, through all of my years of schooling in Kentucky, no one ever talked about this – but it’s an amazing story of triumph through the Great Depression.
- Sometimes, I forget that we’re such a heavy coal mining state and the toll that takes on families throughout the region. While there are sweet stories we see, like this one of a recent Kentucky coal miner bringing his son to a Kentucky basketball game, there are many stories of people forced to work in horrible conditions throughout the world in mines like this for corporate greed. This story is a good reminder of whose backs this country was built on and respecting groups who aren’t given their due.
- TBWOTC reminds me so much of my dad and his side of the family. True hill people, I remember stories of my great-grandmother teaching my dad to make ‘head-cheese’ in a literal cauldron and how they had to bury snake heads away from the body after you cut it off (highly superstitious folks).. And my grandpa's deeply run-down old farmhouse, where my dad and his family raised tobacco so he could go to college. When you read this book – remember that even now, there are people who drink out of wells and have limited access to electricity in the hollers (deep mountain valleys) of Kentucky.

- Cussy/Bluet: I love how her character was developed. SO strong even in the face of trials over her blue skin and how women were looked at as widows etc. The ending of this story really is beautiful because of what Cussy did and who she took responsibility for. Truly a generous soul.
- Cussy’s Father/Pa: There is nothing like reading a scene where a man cries over his children. It’s so powerful and I loved reading about him trying his absolute best and really being ahead of his time in many ways.
- Angeline: I loved her character for all of the ways she exemplified women I’ve met in KY over the years. Kind-hearted, joyful, sweet as can be, and singing while they work. 🖤

There wasn’t any part of this story that wasn’t well done. Parts are harder to read than others due to potentially triggering topics for some – but when you look at history and how women/anyone ‘different’ was treated by medical professionals/people in power... it’s not surprising. Please check trigger warnings.

-The Blue People of Kentucky: While many thought they were a myth, the blue people of Kentucky were a real group of people carrying a rare genetic disorder that caused their skin not to receive full oxygenation and look to all the world ‘blue’. While technically, they were genetically Caucasian; they were treated as poorly as the African American population in the South. While the book mentions them being found by medical professionals in the 30s – Richardson makes a note of the true timeline of the disease's discovery, which was the 1940s in Ireland and the 1960s in Kentucky.
- The Pack Horse Library Project: Delivering over 3,000 books monthly to a forgotten population in the hills of Kentucky, what I loved most about their story is that library access wasn’t restricted to white people. People of all colors and invalids were included in the Pack Librarian’s routes and provided free access to literature (and many times access to literacy itself through short lessons – I’ve included a Smithsonian article here because I want everyone to know about this!

- “You have a right nice voice, an honest one without needing to fancy the words or fatten them with the untruths of cleverer words” – What I loved about this is that while education can help you along, it can also make you haughty and make it easier to lie/trick people because they can’t understand what you’re saying.
- ‘My parents and other folks cured themselves with nature – tonics, roots, barks, and herbs…’ – Reminder of how far we’ve gone from natural remedies and that’s not always a good thing. We’ve become so dependent on medicines that are sometimes a worse ‘cure’ than the original ailment.

- Historical Fiction
- Based on the blue people of Kentuckian and the brave Kentuckians who took on the Pack Horse Library Project
- TWs: Racism, s3xual assault, medical experimentation

My dad, a third-generation dirt-floor poor Kentucky tobacco farmer and first-generation college student, always used to say, "reading is the greatest enabler.." – and I think this story exemplifies all of the ways reading can truly enable you to carry on in the hardest of circumstances. 🖤
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