The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Spoiler Alert: This Review contains some spoilers
The main character, Cussy Mary Carter, also known as “Bluet,” lives in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky in 1936. She is one of the last of a line of blue-skinned people who existed then. This well-researched book follows Cussy as she joins the Pack Horse Librarians to deliver books and reading material throughout the town. Her father, a coal miner and widower, wants her to find a husband and uses a courting candle to attract one. Unfortunately, the man who asks for her hand abuses her and dies during a fit of anger. Because her husband was influential in the town, her “pa” makes a deal with the doctor who comes to their home to hide the body. In exchange, he allows the doctor to examine and test Cussy hoping to find out the cause of Cussy’s blue color and to correct it.
When the cause is determined to be a genetic condition and the doctor treats Cussy with a cure that makes her white, the medicine makes her sick and only lasts a day for each dose. Her father wants her to stop taking it, but she refuses, believing that it will change people’s opinion of her and that the side effects will resolve in time.
As Cussy continues her work bringing books to the townsfolk on her mule, she is pleased when people greet her and look forward to her arrival. Most of the people she serves are sickly and very poor. A young boy who she becomes close to dies from starvation despite her attempts to bring him what little food she can manage.
Two women in charge of the library project consider her “colored” and treat her as below them even when she takes the medicine that makes her white. Besides her book patrons and father, the only other person who views her as an equal is a newcomer to town named Jackson Lovett.
After a young woman, one of her book patrons, dies following childbirth and asks her to take the baby, Cussy discovers that her father has been killed in a mining accident. The day he left, he lit another courting candle. Lovett is the man who responds to it, declares his love for Cussy, and asks her to marry him even though she no longer takes the medicine for her skin condition and has a baby daughter.
On her wedding day, after the ceremony, the sheriff and a group of his supporters put Lovett in jail for marrying Cussy because of a law banning interracial marriages. The doctor tries to persuade them that Cussy is white but suffers a genetic condition that makes her skin appear blue.
The book doesn’t have the happiest of endings and is a sad story, which is why I didn’t give it 5 stars. Readers who enjoy less depressing tales might not find it to their taste. However, it’s an interesting novel based on true historical facts, and the author has written a sequel called The Book Woman’s Daughter.