Phil Lewis | Bookshop Buzz: The tale of a pack horse librarian in rural Kentucky

"The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek" by Kim Michele Richardson

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Set in 1930s Kentucky, "The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek" explores the life of Cussy Carter, a traveling librarian with the Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project. It's her job to carry books through the hills and hollers of eastern Kentucky to the outlying homesteads. For some families, Cussy is their only contact with the outside world. She's an inspiration to young and old alike, carefully selecting the books she carries to meet the needs of the people she serves. These are hard times, and people are eking out a gray existence. Cussy brings a spark of hope into their difficult lives.

Her father is an ailing coal miner. Elijah is keen to marry off his daughter as soon as possible to make sure she will be looked after once he goes. He has offered a dowry of 10 acres of land to any man who will marry Cussy. But still he has trouble finding a suitable partner for his daughter.

That's because Cussy is a Blue. She's the last in a long line of people who have a rare genetic trait that causes an enzyme deficiency. The deficiency results in methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia can be treated, but the medications have side effects. People with the condition have skin that is tinged with blue. As such, they are considered "colored," and are subject to Kentucky's repressive race laws.

"The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek" is a fascinating read. The historical information is absorbing. The concept of the Pack Horse Library is brilliant. Richardson also uses her novel to explore the racial prejudice and injustice in 1930s Kentucky. But this is Cussy's story. She is independent and feisty, endearing and kind. She's beautiful and blue. She deserves love. But will she find it?

Kim Michele Richardson lives with her family in Kentucky. She says of her writing that she loves exploring her birthplace, "the beautiful, brutal and mysterious Kentucky land and its people." Her previous novels include "Liar's Bench" and "The Sisters of Glass Ferry."

"The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek" is available at The Bennington Bookshop or can be purchased online here:

Phil Lewis is co-owner of The Bennington Bookshop.


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