Booklist Reviews 2019 April #1
Cussy Mary Carter knows no one will want to marry her with her blue skin, a rare hereditary condition sometimes found in the mountains of Kentucky. She prefers it that way, since a married woman cannot work for the WPA, and being a Pack Horse librarian is the one light in her lonely, hardscrabble life. But her coal-miner father wants Cussy to be taken care of, which leads to a disastrous, mercifully brief marriage. Now the Widow Frazier—though she prefers what her young patrons call her, the Book Woman—is free to deliver scant reading materials to the most remote hollows of Troublesome Creek. Though Richardson's latest (after The Sisters of Glass Ferry, 2017) is essentially about the power of reading and libraries, it also explores the extreme rural poverty of 1930s Appalachia and labor unrest among coal miners. Readers will respond to quiet Cussy's steel spine as she undergoes cruel medical tests to cure her blueness, and book groups who like to explore lesser-known aspects of American history will be fascinated. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2019 May
Richardson (Liar's Bench) takes readers to 1930s Troublesome Creek, KY, where Cussy Mary Carter works as a Kentucky Pack Horse Librarian. Under Roosevelt's WPA (Works Progress Administration), the Pack Horse Librarian initiative put unmarried women to work delivering books to remote locations in an effort to boost both literacy and female employment. Cussy Mary is not only a Pack Horse Librarian, she's a Blue. She's assumed to be the last of her kind—a group of blue-skinned folks regularly shunned, persecuted, and sometimes killed by white locals. Cussy Mary's work to spread literacy through the hills meets with her family's battles against poverty and racial animus, as a doctor sets out to "cure" her of her blue skin. Will turning Cussy Mary into a white woman solve her troubles? VERDICT Based on true stories from different times (the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the WPA's Pack Horse Librarians), this novel packs a lot of hot topics into one narrative. Perfect for book clubs.—Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA
Copyright 2019 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2019 March #2
This gem of a historical from Richardson (The Sisters of Glass Ferry) features an indomitable heroine navigating a community steeped in racial intolerance. In 1936, 19-year-old Cussy Mary Carter works for the New Deal–funded Pack Horse Library Project, delivering reading material to the rural people of Kentucky. It's a way of honoring her dead mother, who loved books, and it almost makes her forget the fact that her skin is blue, a family trait that sets her apart from the white community. The personable and dedicated Cussy forges friendships through her job, including with handsome farmer Jackson Lovett, who becomes Cussy's love interest. Cussy's ailing coal miner father, Elijah, insists she marry, but the elderly husband he finds for her, Charlie Frazier, dies on their wedding night. Pastor Vester Frazier, a vengeful relative, blames Cussy for Charlie's death and starts stalking her. The local doctor steps in to help, and Cussy repays Doc by letting him perform medical tests on her to learn the cause of her blue skin. A potential cure for Cussy's blue skin and a surprise marriage proposal set in motion a final quarrel among the townspeople over segregation laws that threatens Cussy's chance at happiness. Though the ending is abrupt and some historical information feels clumsily inserted, readers will adore the memorable Cussy and appreciate Richardson's fine rendering of rural Kentucky life. Agent: Stacy Testa, Writers House. (May)
Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.