I read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Wilson and fell in love with it. The book is historical fiction at its finest and follows the character of Cussy Mary who disagrees with society’s expectations that she should marry and have as many babies as possible. Instead, she finds employment with the Packhorse Library, a New Deal program started by President Roosevelt to employ Americans during the Great Depression. The community of Troublesome Creek is mighty suspicious of women traveling by horse and mule to deliver books. This is a time when men are the head of all churches, communities, and households, and some of these men are concerned about what these books might teach their women and children. Cussy Mary and her fellow librarians not only risk their lives every day traveling treacherous trails, but also the wrath of the town elders who are quite satisfied with the status quo, to bring books with new information and ideas to the mountain people.
Cussy Mary is also a “Blue Kentuckian.” Her skin appears to be blue as a result of a well-documented genetic blood disease that originated in France. Martin Fugate whose family was from France, married Elizabeth Smith in the 1800s and settled near Hazard, Kentucky, and they had several children with the disease. Hence, a community of “Blue Kentuckians” emerged.
I enjoyed this book so well that I also read The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes which is another work of historical fiction about the Packhorse Library in Kentucky. The Giver of Stars does not include “Blue Kentuckians,” but there are many other similarities. In both books, there are themes of women and Black Kentuckians pressing for their rights, and living with the consequences when things don’t go as they hoped, so that they could live with at least some of the same freedom and pursuit of happiness as the White men. Both books also explore justice and how it is imperative that governments, courts, and judges be unbiased and free from the influence of money and power.
But mostly, these books are about the power of friendship. The women in these books were able to make some progress because they banded together with like-minded people. They would have made little or no progress if they had worked independently – there is power in groups, and these women in the 1930s instinctively knew that sticking together was the only way to get things done.
Both of these books are excellent and I rate them both 5/5. The Giver of Stars is more highly acclaimed, so I naturally started with The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. If you enjoy one, then you must read the other one. Both were available on my library app.
Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think about these books?
What other books have you read about women or other minority groups pushing for more rights?
What other books have you read that really made you think about people who are different from you?