Primary Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Published: 7 May 2019 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Page count: 320
My Format: Audiobook via Hoopla
Pacing: Okay, but repetitive
Would I recommend it: Probably
Commission Link: Buy The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Synopsis from Goodreads
In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry. The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.
Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a powerful message about how the written word affects people–a story of hope and heartbreak, raw courage and strength splintered with poverty and oppression, and one woman’s chances beyond the darkly hollows. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Packhorse Librarians in literary novels — a story of fierce strength and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
I finished this book a few days ago and my initial gut reaction was that I didn’t enjoy the book. However, I decided to take a couple of days to think about it more, and while I’m still disappointed in the overall execution of the book, I realized that there are positive things about the book that I appreciated. Here are my pros and cons for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek:
- Like I have mentioned in previous reviews, I really like books that are based on real life people, places, or events. The Blue People of Kentucky are very real and the Works Progress Administration Pack Horse Library Project was also a real program during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I encourage you to read more about both because they are interesting and unique parts of U.S. history.
- I loved the relationships that Cussy (more frequently known as Bluet in the book) had with her patrons, particularly with the children. It was clear that Bluet really wanted to share her books with as many people as she could.
- I also loved how Bluet was creative in how she provided reading material to her patrons. She didn’t just give them books… she’d also provide scrapbooks (that she put together) full of recipes, clothing patterns, hunting tips, etc. She clearly loved her job and loved sharing knowledge with others. In very rural Kentucky during this period, this kind of information was often only available through a program like this and was likely the only kind of “education” that was available to some people.
- I liked how the book emphasized that there was something for everyone from the library. Like I noted in #3 above, whether it was reading a novel or trying a new recipe, these regular visits from the book woman became something to look forward to and something to cherish. Even the stubborn folks who thought books were a waste of time were persuaded by Bluet to try something and she always knew the right thing to offer to her more difficult patrons.
- I found the information about why Bluet was blue very interesting. I have known about the Blue People of Kentucky since I was young, but I didn’t know about the science behind why they were blue or that taking methylene blue tablets could change their blue color to pink/white (at least temporarily).
- While I appreciated the relationships Bluet had with her patrons, I wanted more actually. We’d get little snippets of her patrons’ lives, but I was really intrigued by these people and I wanted to know more about them, also! I understand that this book couldn’t go into detail about each of her patrons – the book would have been huge if the author did that – but I felt like the book was missing an opportunity to really expand on how the books and the written word positively impacted her patrons’ lives and it was a gaping hole in the story in my opinion.
- The love story in the book was just meh to me. Totally flat, unengaging, and abrupt.
- The book was incredibly repetitive. I think this is why I initially had a negative reaction to the book. The first 80% of the book is almost nothing but Bluet going around on her stubborn mule and handing out books and recipes and other reading materials to people. I started feeling like I was on these long, boring treks with her. Then, the last part of the book became almost completely about prejudice toward Bluet because of her skin color. While we had indications throughout the story of the prejudice the blue people suffered, the initial part of the book was more about the library project than the prejudice, but suddenly the narrative shifted and the effect was jarring.
The tagline for my blog is “No one ever reads the same book”. This is very true for this book because I clearly have a different opinion on this book from others. This book currently has a 4.25 rating on Goodreads with almost 17,000 ratings. Folks clearly love this book! Don’t get me wrong… I do not think this book was bad at all. As a matter of fact, I think this book had a great premise and had great potential. I just think it would have been much, much better with a few tweaks. I kind of feel like I am being a tad harsh or hypercritical, but I am sharing my true and honest reaction to the book with you.
It really comes down to execution for me. I never like getting bored in a book, no matter how much I like the subject matter. When I get bored, or when I consider not finishing (which I did consider with this book at about the 40% mark), that is almost a guaranteed 3-star rating or less from me.
All of that said, I would probably still recommend this book. If nothing else it is a great introduction to the Pack Horse Library Project and the Blue People of Kentucky… and it is also a solid testament to the power of books and other reading materials and the huge benefit of libraries.
If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)