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Book Club Reflection: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

6 Aug

Our book club met over Zoom again and this time we were able to discuss The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. We got a little background about Richardson to start us off, finding out that she’d grown up in a bad orphanage situation in Kentucky and struggled with homelessness for a time. There was a lot of disease and poverty in the book. Characters suffered from hunger, infections, and Pellagra (a disease none of us had heard of).

I wasn’t the only one who listened to the audiobook and some said they found the narrator to sound very authentic and liked her a lot. I’m inclined to agree.

Many of us didn’t know about the blue people of Kentucky. Some thought it was science fiction at first and most of us ended up Googling it. The way the people reacted to Cussy’s family showed how evil some people can be. We wondered how much of that evil is human nature and how much of it is taught prejudice. In the case of some characters, it seemed a taught behavior (Harriot) whereas others seemed mildly curious about something so unusual (the doctor). We wondered how much Angeline’s husband knew he was a blue. I thought he knew, but others thought he was an unknowing carrier. Angeline didn’t know she carried it. We were a bit surprised that her husband hung himself. With his anger, we thought he’d hurt the baby. But we were glad he didn’t.

There were some great historical aspects of this book that we enjoyed. The scrapbooks were a great community project for the dispersed people to participate in. It let the neighbors learn different ways of doing something or learn a new skill while they were spread out. It seemed a bit odd to us that so many people didn’t want to take WPA jobs, but we also understood the pride involved in not taking government handouts. I’m involved in hiring and I’ve talked to a lot of people struggling with taking government assistance with the COVID fallout because of pride.

We were surprised that Cussy’s father married her to her first husband. Her father seems to be so caring and fond of her, yet he seems to turn a blind eye to such a poor match. We figured that he probably knew he was sick and wanted her to be married to someone who could care for her before he died but still felt he was a bit too quick. It seemed odd that he turned Jackson down six times after that much desperation to marry her the first time. We also wondered about the inconsistency of her being able to marry. Her marriage to Jackson is illegal, but she could marry Frasier? Maybe the law changed, but we figured the most likely answer is that no one cared enough to report it the first time.

The women in town were unnaturally cruel to her. The scene where she took her medicine to appear white and was still so strongly rejected was especially difficult to read. She was pretty and smart and the women felt threatened by her if they couldn’t put her down and make her feel like an underdog. The people on her route were much more polite and open-minded. We wondered if they were honestly better people and more open-minded, or if their reliance on Cussy helped them forgive her skill color.

Cussy’s relationship with the doctor was very confusing. Many disliked him because he was an opportunist. He certainly knew he had an upper hand on Cussy and blackmailed her to get her to submit to his experiments. He treated her like she was sick and that she wouldn’t be well unless she was white. He’d been after her mother, too, trying to get samples and cure their blue skin. At the same time, he was grateful to Cussy for giving him something to publish that he gave her pills and food whenever he could. He was just looking for a way to make himself famous.

I expressed my frustration with the end and a few people agreed with me. The wrap-up seemed a bit hurried and less authentic than the rest of the book. It was a story with a lot of heartbreak and hard-won joy and the ending was just a little too neat and happy to jive with the rest of the story.

We’ll be meeting again next week for our next book, Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. I hope I finish the book. Until next time, write on.

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