The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

I absolutely loved this story about a “blue” woman who works as a librarian on horseback in the mountainous “hollers” of Kentucky. Cussy Mary’s vocation is to bring literacy to the people of her area and the fact that she is shunned for being “blue” won’t stop her. I loved the voice of this character and found the storyline intriguing and interesting. I did wonder why the author chose the blue storyline and then discovered that it is based in fact — there was a succession of Kentuckians who shared a recessive gene that led to unoxygenated blood, which makes the skin appear blue. Interesting!

Highly recommended! Thanks for my e-copy to review!

Description

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. 

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.

Review: LIAR’S BENCH by Kim Michele Richardson

downloadLIARS

Coming of age stories set in the South always appeal to me, so I chose this book from Net Galley.

LIAR’S BENCH is the story of Mudas Summers, a teenage girl living in Kentucky in the 1970’s. Her mother is found dead and suicide is the ruling. Muddy, however, believes her mother was hiding something, and perhaps was killed. Part flashback, part coming of age, and part mystery, LIAR’S BENCH chronicles Muddy’s attempts to find her mother’s story and in essence find herself.

While I liked this story, and found it to be well-written, it was fairly raw and gritty. Muddy’s existence was not an easy one, and the depiction of abuse and neglect was disturbing to me. Just about everyone in her family seemed dysfunctional, and a whole crew of townspeople were hardly more than criminals. I spent a lot of reading time anxious that Muddy and her boyfriend would be harmed or even killed.

I’d be curious what others think of this story. It was quite honestly portrayed and the writing was great. I found it a bit depressing, though I did like the uplifting ending.

Thank you for my review copy, Kensington Press!

Quick Review: The Outsider by Ann Gabhart

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to write a review of this book because I really didn’t enjoy it. I read it in August when I downloaded it to my Kindle. If I’m not mistaken, it was free at that time (but lists at $8.99 for a download as of this writing). “The Outsider” tells the story of Gabrielle Hope, a young woman who lives within a Shaker community in Kentucky during the War of 1812.  She falls in love with an “outsider”, a young doctor who lives nearby.  The book is the story of their seemingly star-crossed love, as Gabrielle struggles with her faith and the Shaker’s commitments and Brice, the doctor (were people named that back then?), tries to move on with his life.

So – here’s the good about this book: it’s historical fiction and I always enjoy reading about things where I can learn something new. (I find reading about the Shakers or the Amish rather fascinating since it’s so removed from my daily experience.) I did read this book through to the end so I could see how it turned out.

That said, here are my problems with the book. First of all, I always have trouble with story lines where two people see each other, barely interact, but become completely and irrevocably in love with each other. Did these two even get to know each other? Where did this undying love come from? I would have appreciated more of a build up of their relationship. I also had some questions about the story line, such as: where were all the other young people in this Shaker community? Gabrielle teaches school to the little girls, but do they have no mothers? I know that in Shaker groups there are no families, but except for the tragic Esther (who ends up dying), Gabrielle seems to be the only person remotely on this side of menopause. She is even referred to as “the young sister”. Where did those little kids come from? It’s always possible they were left by their families, but it didn’t make sense to me that Gabrielle had no one to be with except a couple of cranky, mean, old biddies. I honestly would put this book down at night and think: “Wow, those Shakers were a miserable lot”, and I’m not sure that is true in reality. At the same time, things were so incredibly bleak and miserable, it was puzzling to me why Gabrielle wouldn’t leave (she was free to go at any time, though you’d never know it); and if those cranky, old sisters hated her, why didn’t they encourage her to leave? Finally, there were a few plot devices that I had to wonder about. What significance was Gabrielle’s “gift of sight”? I don’t remember her using it to drive the plot forward. Also, the switch to “Brice in the war” scenes served to pull me out of the story. I couldn’t really see the point unless it was to drive the novel forward in time and show Brice as a hardened but caring doctor (though I don’t think that needed war scenes – he’s a mountain doctor in 1812!).

Anyway, if you read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Or if you’ve read Ms. Gabhart’s other novels, I’d love to hear about them.

And one more question from me: did the Shakers really call their dining room a “biting room”? I have never come across that terminology before, but I’m not an expert. As Alice would say: Curiouser and curiouser…