There are books that I find myself torn between reading really fast (because I just can’t stop reading it and want to know what happens next) and really slow at the same time (because I simply don’t want it to end). The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was one such book that once I started, I did not want to stop reading (alas I had to because, well, life…) but it kept me waiting to get back to it as soon as I could, and when I did, I
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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Troublesome Creek is true to its name. Its hardscrabble residents have it tough, and have to scrap for everything. But thanks to the Pack Horse Library Project, they do not need to worry about books.
Cussy is Troublesome’s very own Book Woman! But she is also the last of her kind, a Blue (called so because of the shade of her skin). While there are a few who look forward to Cussy and the books she brings, there are others who disapprove (of her blue skin, and even the books)! Age old prejudices run deep, and troubles are blamed on people of color (including the Blues).
So Cussy has to look past the scorn of those who suspect her and the library project, to be able to bring the joy of books to the others. And she does so, with the firm strength of her belief in the power of reading and books.
This book is inspired by the true blue-skinned people who lived in Kentucky in the 1930s and by the Pack Horse Library Service of the time.
The author has created a character so strong, so resilient, so human, so vulnerable, and so believable and real at the same time. Cussy’s strength in the face of all her difficulties is inspiring, and I can easily imagine this book woman on her mule, braving the elements and ensuring she does her job.
Book Woman.. is not just Cussy’s story. It is the story of all the persecuted because they look different; the harsh lives of the coal miners of 1930s Kentucky; of the poorest of the poor in the Appalachia; those starved for the basic necessities; of those who delighted in getting to read just about anything, even if it was a month old newspaper; and so much more.
The reader is taken into Cussy’s world effortlessly. From the very first page, I fell in love with Cussy and cheered her on (not that she needed it so maybe she cheered me), cried with her, wanted to rage out at others in her stead, and simply walked (rode a pack horse rather) alongside her.
This book celebrates friendships, family, love, hope, resilience, the love of books and reading, while not shying from human suffering, racism, poverty, prejudice and more. It wraps this all with a serving of lessons from history and ties it all up with hope.
The book is not as cheesy as that last paragraph I wrote, I promise! It is strong, heartfelt, beautiful and informative, in short magnificent!
I found myself reading & researching more on the “blue people” and methemoglobinemia. I also looked into the Pack Horse Library Project. The book itself provides an exhaustive amount of information at the end, complete with photographs from the time.
Other items of interest included the mining conditions at the time, the Appalachia, and the WPA.
The research, the history learned, the stories told, the characters – each and every one by itself is valuable and wonderful, and together, makes for a combination that is truly powerful and memorable. As for me, this is another book that is going into my list of favorite books ever (now if I can only find that list:)). This book is definitely a worthwhile addition to my library.
And Now, the End of this Post
Dear reader, have you read a fictional book that not only warms your heart with its strong characters and their unforgettable stories (triumphs/tribulations) but also enriches your mind with interesting information? Do let me know. And of course, any non-fiction too that leaves you feeling the same way…