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
    Paperback:
    May 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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"He don't look safe, and he scares me something awful." The old cabin creaked, moaned like it were true, like it was trying to keep him away. "And he don't bathe… Why, his britches are strong enough to stand themselves up in a corner. I--I don't want to marry. Pa, please, I don't want to go anywhere alone with him, I—-"

"Daughter, I would see you knotted right and give you a proper send-off if I could, but the Company ain't allowing nary a second off in a whole month for the likes of us miners—-unless it comes with a gra-vedigger's notice or boss man's pink slip. In the morning, I'll rent Mr. Murphy's ol' horse, Bib, and bring your trunk on over to him. Make sure you're settled in. Go on, Daughter. He'll take you to the officiant, and you'll be Mrs. Charlie Frazier by tonight. Get on to your man. Go on, it's getting late." He flicked his hand. "Don't keep your man wait-ing."

His words landed like rocks on my chest.

Pa fished into his pants pocket and pulled out a clean handkerchief I'd just washed for him this morning, passing it to me.

I balled it up in a damp, trembling fist, unrolling, squeezing, roll-ing.

Pa's shoulders drooped as he turned to go inside. Gripping the latch, he paused at the threshold. "You belong to Charlie Frazier now."

"I belong here with my job! Don't take my books away like this. Please…Pa, no, don't let him take me away." I sank to my knees and raised begging hands. "Let me stay," I whispered hoarsely. "Please, Pa? Pa? Almighty Lord, please—-"

The door shut tight, swallowing my prayer, taking my light with it. I wanted to run, to fold myself into the dark, rotted land, disappear un-der the cold Kentucky ground.

I raised the twisted handkerchief to my mouth and pressed, watch-ing my hand grieve to a dark azure blue.

* * *

Radish red, he was.

What he did was worse than a rattler's bite, or what I imagined the snake's strike to be when my sixty--two--year--old husband, Charlie Frazier, first tried to plant his fiery seed inside me. Bucking, I knocked off the pillow he'd cloaked over my face.

"Be still," he hissed. "Still, you blue devil. Ain't gonna suf-fer the sight of your dead face." He pressed his other hand over my mouth and eyes, shielding himself, pumping inside me.

I wriggled free from his grip, bit and clawed at him, choking on my fear and fury, struggling for air.

He pummeled my stomach, pinched my breasts, and punched at my head until a blackness took hold.

The second time he poked me, a gray leeched into his dog--pecker--pink face.

When I came to, I was lying on a cold dirt floor. A voice floated above, and I tried to speak but nothing came out. Someone placed a cover over me, and I fell back into a shifting darkness until another voice roused me once more.

I struggled to lift my lids, but could only open one eye partway, barely making out Pa's face.

"Pa—ah." The word broke in my throat. I stretched out a hand. A deep pain struck and I cried out, cradling my swollen arm.

"Daughter, don't try an' move." He lifted my head and brought a mug to my mouth. "Just sip this." Part of my lip had swelled to my nose, and the liquid dribbled out, down onto my chin. Pa dried my wet skin with his coat sleeve, tilted the cup, and tried again to give me a drink. I tasted the shine and spit and coughed, the liquid setting me on fire, burning my tender gums and split lips.

A different ache lit, hot and knifelike, and I sucked in a breath, pushed Pa away, clamping a hand to my ear, only to jerk it back and see the sticky blood that had leaked out the eardrum and covered my palm.

Pa dug out his handkerchief and pressed it against my ear. "You hold it there a minute." He placed my hand over the hankie and held up the mug. "Try and get all this down now." Pa raised the liquor back to my mouth, and I took a bigger gulp.

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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