Thursday, September 9, 2021

Review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Historical Fiction by Kim Michele Richardson
I found this historical novel very interesting.  It is based on two pieces of history that were new to me.  The author did a lot of research to make sure she got the significant facts correct and then wrote her novel surrounding these events.

Historical Facts

The novel takes place in the 1930's and was inspired by the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and Kentucky Pack Horse librarians.

The Blue people of Kentucky were first discovered in the hills of eastern Kentucky.  They had an extremely rare disease that causes the skin to be blue.  This disease limited oxygen to the blood and caused a bluish tint to the skin. It is called Methemoglobinemia. These people lived in remote areas of the Kentucky hills near Troublesome creek and were shunned by other people in the area because they looked different.

The Kentucky Pack Horse librarians were started with the signing of Roosevelt's New Deal Acts.  The Pack Horse Library project was established in 1935 and ran until 1943.  It was created in an effort to both create jobs for women in rural Appalachia and to bring books to the people that lived in the poorest and most isolated areas of eastern Kentucky.  These librarians were known as the Book Women.

 

The Novel

The book takes place in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky in 1936.  It follows a pack horse librarian,  Cussy Mary Carter (also known as Bluet) through her travels as she delivers books, magazines and compassion to the poor people in the remote areas of the Kentucky hills.

Bluet has blue skin and is shunned by many of the town's people because she looks different and they feel that she has something they could "catch".  She finds peace in her job as a pack horse librarian and in the joy she brings to the people in the hills as she brings them reading materials.  She also will take the time to read to those who are not able to read themselves and she shows a lot of compassion to these people who have little food and possesions.

We also see Bluet as she works in the library storage area once a month and interacts with the other librarians.  Some are very mean to her and others are very kind.  

Bluet's mother has passed away and she lives with her father.  Troublesome Creek is a mining town and her father works in the mines.  A side story with the father shows the troubles that the miners have and the way  they live with the black lungs they got from working in the mines.

I found the main character Cussy Mary to be someone I really got to know in the book and looked forward to continue reading the book.  This is a book I would strongly recommend.

Another Book on the Kentucky Pack Horse Librarians

The book club I belong to read another book on the pack horse librarians.  It was called The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes.  I also found it fascinating.





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6 comments:

  1. I read a book a while back about the Pack Horse Library and the librarians who delivered books to rural homes. What a great foundation for a historical fiction. I can understand why people would be fearful of catching a disease from someone who is blue, yet very sad for the afflicted individuals. Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

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  2. I learned about the Blue People of Kentucky and the pack horse librarians earlier this year (coincidentally, from reading another enthusiastic review and recommendation of this book). Having compassion for and helping people in need who are both scared of you and prejudiced against you because of your skin color is admirable, courageous and, no doubt, extremely difficult. I wish we had more outreach initiatives like the Pack Horse Library Project today to help educate people in places like Appalachia, where resources are scarce and poverty is pervasive, and create meaningful jobs for the unemployed. Working conditions even for today’s mine workers are dangerous and extremely hazardous to their health. It is heartbreaking to imagine how much worse the conditions were in 1930s Kentucky. This certainly sounds like a book well worth reading. Thanks for your review and recommendation!

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  3. This review brings back memories of another book I have read about both the blue people and the pack horse librarians. I don't remember the title of the book I read, but this review brought it back to me. I remember enjoying it and sharing it with my Sister in Law who comes from Kentucky. She had not heard of this until I made her aware. Thanks for a great review.

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  4. Thanks for the introduction to this book. I think I've heard of this disease/disorder - but can't recall. What a fascinating read this must be. Trying to imagine what this would be like is unfathomable. There's so much discrimination and the blue people of Kentucky must have felt it ten-fold. Sounds like a good book to give to someone who is interested in history as well.

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  5. What a wonderful story. I have heard of the blue people of Kentucky with this condition before.People can be afraid and worried about illness they do not understand. How lovely of her to read to those who cannot read and to show such compassion even though she faced discrimination shows a real strength of character. I am sure I would enjoy reading this book, thank you the recommendation.

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  6. I remember starting this book, but don't believe I had the chance to finish it. Your review has reminded me that this is read I do wish to absorb more fully. I think I could have been one of those pack horse librarians. What an adventure! I was amazed to learn about the "blue" people. Makes me wonder how many other important groups of people are out there waiting to be discovered and known.

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