The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

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A spellbinding book, based on historical events, that broke my heart but also mended it, (craggily and with herbs, twine, and a whole lot of love).

The year is 1936, and the world is reeling from the effects of the Great Depression. As the author evokes the sweeping desperation of the times, this book also bears witness to the incredible souls who endured, in a time when “food was the most valuable thing you could give someone”, giving the very little of anything they had, as they worked to bring hope and comfort to others.

Cussy Mary Carter, nineteen years old, is unlike any other heroine you will meet between the pages. For one thing, she is poor, and kind, and compassionate, as well as beguilingly bookish, – an avid reader with a heart of pure gold. Armed with home remedies and love for her pa and her fellow country folk, Cussy Mary is a marvel, personifying her times, but also rising above them – a beacon of better times, and possible worlds, unleashed through literature and learning.

For Cussy Mary, despite her young age, is one of the brave and resourceful women known as “book women”, delivering library books, pamphlets and imagination-fueling resources to patrons, on her mule, Junia (herself an endearing mix of mule and guard-dog) as she faces some of the most treacherous land (and landowners) in rural Kentucky.

To complicate her situation further, Cussy Mary, along with her ailing miner father, is also the last surviving member of her clan – the Blue People of Kentucky’s Troublesome Creek. With skin which takes on an unusual range of blue shades, intensified under strong emotion, Mary’s differences set her apart, exposing her to the fear, ignorance, and hate of others, and causing her deep and heartrending shame.

“I was a Blue Ghost, the spook in little boys’ bad dreams”.

“The disgrace had fixed itself to my soul like it has life, the rawness, black and heavy like a lump of Kentucky coal”.

Without giving the plot away, Cussy Mary will face terrible adversity, – one that will take the reader on a path of grief, and pain and incredible hardship. But one which will also trigger wonder, and love, and a glimpse of something bigger, that may just change a readers life.

Highly recommended, I loved this book – an illuminating treat for any lover of the literary, or the public library. Or both.

Read it.


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