The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek


Today’s Ultimate Blogging Challenge prompt is to review a book or a movie. The book that I am reviewing is a book that I am currently reading, called The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson.

This book is set in Kentucky during the mid-1930s. It is the story of Cussy Mary Carter, who was a packhorse librarian in the hills of Kentucky. The packhorse librarian program was part of the Works Progress Administration, an American New Deal agency to provide jobs to unemployed people. 

Cussy Mary faces many challenges as a packhorse librarian, including prejudice based on her physical appearance, as well as the physical dangers of navigating steep mountain trails while riding her mule. She has a hereditary condition that causes her skin to be blue. Because of the unusual color of her skin, she faces prejudice and even hostility. At one point, she even becomes a lab rat for a doctor, who claims that he can cure her of her strange coloring. 

Cussy Mary is a witness to a high level of poverty and illiteracy amongst the people who live high in the mountains. For many, she is a source of hope. Too far from libraries or schools, many of the people never learned to read. Despite Cussy Mary’s busy work schedule, she always finds the time to read to people who say that they have something in their eye and they can’t see the words on the page. She knew that they did not know how to read, as the illiteracy rates were high.

Cussy Mary brought recipes to women and stories to children and magazines to men. She brought scrapbooks, full of information and pictures, to people living high in the mountains. These were scrapbooks that she spent her days off compiling.

Cussy Mary is a fictional person who represents one of 1,000 women who was hired during the Great Depression to bring books and other reading matter to the remote areas of Kentucky. On horse back or mule back, the women brought the library to the customers. 

Books offer people an opportunity to experience lives far different from their own. And that’s exactly what The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is doing for me. It is giving me a glimpse into a successful program that truly demonstrated the power of reading, as well as a region and a way of life that I have never known. 

If you are looking for something to read, I would recommend The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson.

4 thoughts on “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek”

  1. Ingrid R. Torsay

    Alice, I am so plesed that you are reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, and that you chose to give it a review. I finished it a few months ago and found it to be one of the most appealing books of historical fiction I have read in many months. What shocked me most was the depth of poverty, especially the hunger, that the people of rural Kentucky suffered.

    I know from one of your earlier messages that you have also read The Giver of Stars by British author Jojo Moyes. I am curious to learn how you would compare the two books, since each one features the 1930's pack-horse librarians of rural Eastern Kentucky as a dominant theme. Both books were published in the same year, with Troublesome Creek being released first. There was some controversy whether the British author in part plagerized the the book by Richardson, a native Kentuckian.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this meaningful review and for posting it to your blog.

  2. This book reminds me of 'Miss Willie' by Janice Holt Giles written in 1951. I think you'd enjoy it after reading this one.

  3. I keep seeing this book, and now that I've read your review, I finally added it to my TBR list! It sounds so good!

  4. Kebba Buckley Button

    Alice, aha! Here is your piece as a UBC post. Earlier I caught it randomly on my FB feed. Yay! The idea of pack-horse librarians reminds me of circuit preachers, who got to each area maybe monthly. But at least the people had a real preacher once a month. Thanks for a fascinating piece– including the blue people! I will look them up.

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