“What I wanted most was to be okay as a Blue. I never understood why other people thought my color, any color, needed fixing.”
― Kim Michele Richardson, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
I believe I initially found out about this book because of the controversy over Jojo Moyes potentially taking aspects of this book and using them in her book, The Giver of Stars. A friend even recommended The Giver of Stars to me. I decided I would first read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and then see if I wanted to read Jojo Moyes book. After reading both books, I would decide for myself what I thought about the controversy.
Our protagonist is Cussy Mary Carter, who has a rare genetic condition that makes her skin appear blue (based on the real-life Blue People of Kentucky). Cussy lives with her coal-mining father and works as a packhorse librarian in Appalachia, delivering books by horseback to people in her community. Because of her blue skin, she and her father (believed to be the only two blue people left, which we find to not be true) are outcasts and face prejudice, especially by the reverend.
What I enjoyed about this book was learning about the blue people of Kentucky. The prejudice that Cussy faced, and real blue people would have faced, was fascinating to consider. Richardson included a character named Queenie, a black woman who was also a packhorse librarian, and it showed the reader how Cussy was treated in comparison to a black woman, who of course was discriminated against. I liked how Queenie was bright and talented, and even secured herself a librarian position in Philadelphia. Her letters to Cussy later in the novel, show how she was able to get out of an unhealthy situation and better her life – and books were a crucial aspect of that.
Another difficult aspect of the book was about poverty. The setting is 1930s in Kentucky – so it’s no surprise that poverty is a big issue! I really enjoyed seeing the minor characters in this book and how they struggled with poverty, food scarcity, and lack of education. All difficult topics to read about, but well-done.
Character-driven is certainly a way to describe The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. And by character-driven, I also mean “slow.” I have gone back and forth about this book. There were things I liked about it, of course – ultimately, I rated it 3.5 stars, but I also felt sort of… bored. I gave it 3.5 stars because it’s a book I keep thinking about after being done with it for weeks. I like being challenged by books, so I’m glad I pushed through with it, even though I wasn’t amazed by it.
Even though it felt slow, it was a good read, and I would recommend it. I started this post by talking about Jojo Moyes book, The Giver of Stars. Even though I enjoyed this book, and I thought that I would read The Giver of Stars so that I could compare the two, after finishing it, I’m not at all interested it giving it a try. I thought Richardson did a good job – good enough that I don’t think I need to read another book that is similar. Even though Moyes’ books are fast reads for me, I think I might actually be bored with it. What I loved about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was learning about a part of history I didn’t know anything about before. And so, it kind of seems like, mission accomplished. I don’t need another book to learn more about the subject.
Do you have a book that you loved for one reason but also found yourself bored or frustrated by? Have you read either The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek or The Giver of Stars? I’d love to hear about your experience with either or both of these books!