Summary and book reviews of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2019, 320 pages
    May 2019, 320 pages


  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere―even back home.

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything -- everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Kentucky, 1936

The librarian and her mule spotted it at the same time. The creature's ears shot up, and it came to a stop so sudden its front hooves skidded out, the pannier slipping off, spilling out the librarian's books. An eddy of dirt and debris lifted, stinging the woman's eyes. The mule struggled to look upward, backward, anywhere other than at the thing in front of it.

The book woman couldn't keep her eyes off the spectacle as she shortened the reins and clamped her legs against the mule's sides. Again, she prodded her mount. Baring tall, sassing teeth, the beast lift-ed its muzzle into the balsam--sweetened air, the quavering brays blis-tering the sleepy mountain.

The woman stiffened, drawing the reins in tighter. In front of her, a body swayed back and forth below the fat branch from which it hung. A rope, collared tight around the neck, creaked from the strain of its weight. A kettle of turkey buzzards circled above, dipping their ugly, naked heads toward the lifeless ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Kentucky Pack Horse program was implemented in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create women's work programs and to assist economic recovery and build literacy. Looking at the novel, how did the program affect the people in this remote area? Do you think library programs are still a vital part of our society today?
  2. How has a librarian or booklover impacted your life? Have you ever connected with a book or author in a meaningful way? Explain.
  3. Missionaries, government, social workers, and various religious groups have always visited eastern Kentucky to reform, modernize, and mold hillfolk to their acceptable standards. Do you think Cussy faced this kind of prejudice from the outside world? Is there any prejudice ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
You can see the full discussion here.

Cussy has to deal with the loss of many loved ones in a very short amount of time. How do you think she handles her grief? Which loss was the most difficult for you to read?
I think she is a remarkably strong woman, she was raised in a hard life and that made her strong. The hardest to me was her father's death. Seeing her break down broke my heart. I cried several times reading this book. - JillL

How did the WPA affect the people in this particular remote area and across the country? Do you think a program similar to the WPA would be a good thing today?
WPA projects in my opinion brought a lot of literacy to the people isolated in the mountains. The projects also preserved a lot of history that would have bene forgotten otherwise. Would love to see something like this today. It would give employment... - alycet

How do you think Cussy's father feels after he marries her off to an abusive man? Why do you think he agrees to Charlie Frazier's proposal in the first place?
I think Cussy’s father felt that he had failed utterly to fulfill what he believed to be his obligation as a parent: to see that Cussy was safe and protected after he died. He knew that her life would be even more difficult as a single woman in ... - Elizabeth Marie

How does Cussy’s social isolation affect her relationships with others?
She didn’t really let her social isolation affect her relationships with her patrons. I was impressed by her interactions with her patrons, her devotion to serving their needs. Despite the prejudice she experienced, she was remarkably open and ... - terrio

How has a librarian or booklover impacted your life?
When I was in school, I took Working in the Library as a class. I learned so much about books working there. I had always loved to read, but the librarian taught me to enjoy many kinds of books. I still remember the first book she gave me to read.... - nancyh

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

Southern Literary Review
Kim Michele Richardson’s presentation of her protagonist’s challenges and perseverance within a culture hostile to deviation from norms is a significant accomplishment. Equally valuable is her reminder of the priceless necessity, the enduring thrill, of books and reading.

Richardson has penned an emotionally moving and fascinating story about the power of literacy over bigotry, hatred and fear.

Deep South Magazine
Set in the hollers of Depression-era Kentucky, the novel serves as a testament to the power of the written word, arguing that words can traverse barriers between class, race and individual differences. Richardson’s descriptions throughout the novel breathe life into the mountains, the books and the lives of her characters. She captures both the beauty of the mountains and the ugliness of ignorance. It serves as a wonderful reminder that our similarities can overcome our differences—and a love of reading is one of those similarities. In a time of constant polarization, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek reminds us that all is not lost.

Historical Novel Society
Richardson, a master of phrase, cadence, and imagery, once again delivers a powerful yet heartfelt story that gives readers a privileged glimpse into an impoverished yet rigidly hierarchical society, this time by shining a light on the courageous, dedicated women who brought books and hope to those struggling to survive on its lowest rung. Strongly recommended.

Due South Magazine, NC
Richardson’s beautiful story is one of perseverance, compassion, and self-acceptance. Through Cussy’s journey, we learn there is no struggle so worthy of our might, as the one that strives to bring joy into the lives of others.

The Post and Courier Newspaper - Charleston, South Carolina
An impressive historical novel. Authentic, lyrical. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is timely and necessary.

NB Literary Magazine UK
A superb personal read and I have no doubt many book clubs will enjoy this massively... So far, one of my favourite books this year!

London Free Press
A book that is so full of social relevance that it would be worth reading even without the wonderful descriptive writing and the fine characterizations. Lucky for readers that it has both.

Kirkus Reviews
A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Publishers Weekly
This gem of a historical from Richardson (The Sisters of Glass Ferry) features an indomitable heroine navigating a community steeped in racial intolerance.

Author Blurb Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
[A] hauntingly atmospheric love letter to the first mobile library in Kentucky and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and--just as importantly--a compassionate human connection.

Author Blurb Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Almost Sisters
Emotionally resonant and unforgettable, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a lush love letter to the redemptive power of books.

Author Blurb Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy
A timeless and significant tale about poverty, intolerance and how books can bring hope and light to even the darkest pocket of history.

Author Blurb Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of One Foot in Eden and Serena
Fascinating…impressive storytelling.

Reader Reviews


The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
This title would have been one of my beloved recommendations for my patrons at the library I worked at for 36 years. The government program instituted in the 1930s took books to the isolated hills of Kentucky and was a soul saving gift to the ...   Read More

Janet Smith

Good Historical Fiction
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a gem of historical fiction. I was unaware of the Kentucky Pack Horse program or the blue skinned people of Kentucky. Although the book starts out a little slow, I found the book fascinating and an endearing ...   Read More


Couldn’t put it down
I cant say enough positive. What a great story - the blue folks and the mobile library are two parts of history I would not have known except for this book. Great characters, well written and presented, and pleasant to read. And no underlying agenda....   Read More


Very satisfying
This would have been 5 stars except the first quarter of the book seems way too constrained by the author's need to let us know she did the research necessary. Once she worked her way through her research and actually developed the characters, the ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, try these:

  • Treeborne jacket


    by Caleb Johnson

    Published 2019

    About this book

    Treeborne is a celebration and a reminder: of how the past gets mixed up in thoughts of the future; of how home is a story as much as a place.

  • Calling Me Home jacket

    Calling Me Home

    by Julie Kibler

    Published 2014

    About this book

    Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler is a soaring debut interweaving the story of a heartbreaking, forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky with an unlikely modern-day friendship.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everything Inside
    Everything Inside
    by Edwidge Danticat
    Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American writer, and Haiti looms large as a presence in this ...
  • Book Jacket: The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    The Beekeeper of Aleppo
    by Christy Lefteri
    In Christy Lefteri's sophomore novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, the author introduces readers to ...
  • Book Jacket: Marilou Is Everywhere
    Marilou Is Everywhere
    by Sarah Elaine Smith
    "The point is that at that moment in my life," writes the narrator of Sarah Elaine Smith's debut ...
  • Book Jacket: Let's Call It a Doomsday
    Let's Call It a Doomsday
    by Katie Henry
    However the world will end, Ellis Kimball is ready for it. Her obsessive stash of survivalist ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Yale Needs Women
    by Anne Gardiner Perkins

    A tale of courage in the face of arrogance that remains eerily relevant on U.S. campuses today.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secrets We Kept
    by Lara Prescott

    Reese Witherspoon's Sept Book Club Pick!
    "This is the rare page-turner with prose that’s as wily as its plot."—EW
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Today We Go Home
by Kelli Estes

Illuminating and deeply human, Today We Go Home shines a light on the brave military women of the past and present.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Chase Darkness with Me

How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders

Have you ever wanted to solve a murder? Gather the clues the police overlooked? Put together the pieces? Identify the suspect?


Word Play

Solve this clue:

S S A C A Big S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.