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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
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July 2020: Southern > The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek- 3 stars

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Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 564 comments The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek tells the fictional story of one particular bookwoman, Cussy Mary, who worked for the WPA Pack Horse Library program in 1936 in the Kentucky hills. I enjoyed learning about that, which was new to me. The other story is that of the “Blue people” of Kentucky. I’d argue that the descriptions of methemoglobinemia are not accurate. It’s not impossible but it’s unlikely that Angeline’s husband would manifest one blue foot. Also, granted it’s difficult to describe colors, but I don’t think cerulean or cobalt blue are appropriate for the dusky gray-blue of cyanosis. This leads to another criticism: the author tried too hard to find unusual ways to describe all sorts of things. Hens “rolled” out their clucks; the mule had tall “talking” teeth; and what is a “flesh-bitten nail?” The mule made a number of sounds I puzzled over. I was distracted from the story trying to picture what the author was describing.
This is a part of America I’m unfamiliar with, but I recently read (in J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy) that the fact that my great-grandparents were known as “mamaw” and “papaw” is virtual proof that I’ve got roots in the culture described in Bookwoman. Yikes.
A number of reviewers have criticized the saccharine romance, unidimensional characters, and other melodrama in the plot. I agree that these are problems, but also admit I was dragged emotionally into the story, so I’ve got to give the author credit for doing something right – or maybe it was atavistic power at work.


Holly R W | 1446 comments Very interested to read your review, Susan. As I recall, I gave the book a split rating - 5 for the historical research that went into it and 3 for the story itself. The power of the book for me was its descriptions of life in Kentucky's hills during this time period. I thought it was very authentic. The story itself had some problems, which you identified. Still, I will remember Cussy Mary (love her name) and the WPA Pack Horse Library program.


Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 564 comments Holly R W wrote: "Very interested to read your review, Susan. As I recall, I gave the book a split rating - 5 for the historical research that went into it and 3 for the story itself. The power of the book for me wa..."

Yes, I enjoyed what I learned about the library program too.


Meli (melihooker) | 3449 comments Solid 5 for me. Normally not one for romance, but as a lover of the underdog story rooted for Cussy Mary all along.

Have you read The Giver of Stars, Susan?
I heard it was a similar story. And some controversy about maybe being somewhat plageristic, but I couldn't say.


Susan Lewallen (susanlewallen) | 564 comments Meli wrote: "Solid 5 for me. Normally not one for romance, but as a lover of the underdog story rooted for Cussy Mary all along.

Have you read The Giver of Stars, Susan?
I heard it was a similar story. And so..."


I rooted for her too (that's the emotionally dragged part). Haven't read the other and a comparison is intriguing.


Meli (melihooker) | 3449 comments I haven't read it either, but curious about the comparison and similarities. Some PBT members have read and enjoyed Giver. I wasn't gonna read it but get more curious :P


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