In 1936, Bluet is the last of the Kentucky Blues. In the dusty Appalachian hills of Troublesome Creek, nineteen and blue-skinned, Bluet has used up her last chance for “respectability” and a marriage bed. Instead, she joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding up treacherous mountains on a mule to deliver books and other reading material to the poor hill communities of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Bluet confronts many who are distrustful of her blue skin. Not everyone is so keen on Bluet’s family or the Library Project, and the impoverished Kentuckians are quick to blame a Blue for any trouble in their small town.
Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek provides an authentic Appalachian voice to a story of hope, heartbreak and raw courage and shows one woman’s strength, despite it all, to push beyond the dark woods of Troublesome Creek.
This gem of a historical from Richardson (The Sisters of Glass Ferry) features an indomitable heroine navigating a community steeped in racial intolerance. In 1936, 19-year-old Cussy Mary Carter works for the New Deal funded Pack Horse Library Project, delivering reading material to the rural people of Kentucky. It's a way of honoring her dead mother, who loved books, and it almost makes her forget the fact that her skin is blue, a family trait that sets her apart from the white community. The personable and dedicated Cussy forges friendships through her job, including with handsome farmer Jackson Lovett, who becomes Cussy's love interest. Cussy's ailing coal miner father, Elijah, insists she marry, but the elderly husband he finds for her, Charlie Frazier, dies on their wedding night. Pastor Vester Frazier, a vengeful relative, blames Cussy for Charlie's death and starts stalking her. The local doctor steps in to help, and Cussy repays Doc by letting him perform medical tests on her to learn the cause of her blue skin. A potential cure for Cussy's blue skin and a surprise marriage proposal set in motion a final quarrel among the townspeople over segregation laws that threatens Cussy's chance at happiness. Though the ending is abrupt and some historical information feels clumsily inserted, readers will adore the memorable Cussy and appreciate Richardson's fine rendering of rural Kentucky life.