Excerpt from The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

A Novel

by Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson X
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
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  • First Published:
    May 2019, 320 pages
    May 2019, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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Print Excerpt

Hartman picked up the courting candle, shoved it toward my face. Cringing, he dropped the deed and, in one weighty puff, blew out the flame.

"Not even for all of Kentucky." His old, rotted breath whisked through black smoke, taking mine.

* * *

Weren't a week later, Pa set back out my time-keeping candle, raising the taper to its longest burn. By the end of Jan-uary and three courters later, he'd made sure he wouldn't have to again.

The man showed up in the early afternoon wearing a worn hat. He took his time reading the deed, then sat tight--lipped, raking his fingers through his thinning hair, snatching glances at the courting candle's flame. Several times he shifted, smacked his limp hat against stained britches, each move sparking a new plume of rancid odor. After two porch visits with the suitor, Pa gave his blessing the last week of Janu-ary and signed over the deed, snuffing out my last courting candle. The old squire shot up from his seat and grabbed the document. Avoiding my face, he leered at my body, his eyes lingering on my breasts, taking stock of his new possession.

I clung to Pa on our porch. "I don't want to marry," I'd said, afraid. "I don't want to leave you." My eyes flitted to the old man waiting out in the yard beside his mule. He stared back, tapped his leg with the hat, each smack growing louder and more impatient.

"Daughter," Pa said, cupping my chin in his calloused hand, "you must take a man and live your life. Be safe." He turned away, took a ragged breath, and coughed several times. "You must. I have to make sure you won't be alone when I'm gone—-keep my promise to your mama." His tired lungs wheezed and he coughed again, the coal mine thieving his time.

"I have my books!"

"It is a foolishness you have, Daughter." A sorrow clung to his stick--throated voice.

"I'll lose my route, my patrons. Please, I can't lose them." I gripped his sleeve and shook. "Please, not him."

"You'll have yourself a big family. The Fraziers are an old clan with kinfolk all over these hills."

"But he's kin to Pastor Vester Frazier." I pressed a palm to my gal-loping heart thinking about him, his hunt--hungry congregation, and their deadly baptismal waters down at the creek. "Pa, you know what the preacher does to folks like us, what he's done—-"

Pa laid a hand on my shoulder and shook his head. "He doesn't asso-ciate with the likes of the preacher man, and he gave me his word that he'll protect you. It's growing late, Daughter. I must get ready. The Company has several cars they're expecting me to load today, or I'll lose my job. Get on now to your new family," he gently urged.

I'd looked at the man in the yard twisting the floppy cake--like hat in his hand, coiling our old Carter land deed, nervously shifting to one short muscly leg and then the other, small eyes darting between us and his bone--ribbed mule, anxious to leave. Gusts of wintry air tore across the brow of the woods, shaking branches and whipping his stringy gray--flecked hair.

"But, Pa, please, I'm…I'm frightened of him." I searched for my hankie, gave up, and wiped my runny nose on a coat sleeve.

"Mr. Frazier will give you his name and see that you have a roof over your head and food in your belly."

"I have a name, the Only name I want! Book Wom-an."

Pa's eyes filled with turmoil. His face crumpled. I was sure he didn't want me to go, but he was more afraid not to let me. I was just as frightened to leave him, and more, for the likes of that out there in the yard.

"Please, Pa, you know'd how Mama loved the books and wanted them for me." Mama. Her absence ached in my heart, and I was desperate for her comforting arms.

"Your mama wanted you safe, Daughter."

Frazier moved closer to the mule, drawing in his shoulders, bracing against the bitter cold.

Excerpted from The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Cheryl Richardson. Copyright © 2019 by Cheryl Richardson. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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