Author: Kim Michele Richardson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
American release date: May 7, 2019
Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Historical Fiction/320 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
In the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA program created jobs for people so they could work and have money during a difficult time in American history, namely the Great Depression. Instead of just handing money out, they allowed people to work for it, adding to their self-worth as wage earners. One part of that program was the Pack Horse librarians of rural Kentucky. Mostly women, they rode horses/mules/donkeys, traveled on foot or sometimes by boat, through the mountains and across rivers and creeks, to bring books to people in remote areas of the state.
Cussy Mary is a Pack Librarian, and very happy to be one. She lives with her father Elijah, who is a miner, and she loves the patrons on her route. These are poor people who are barely surviving, much less able to buy books, so the librarians are lights in their lives. Cussy is well loved by her patrons as well, and doesn’t mind reading to those who cannot read themselves. She worries about them, especially the children, who are sick and starving. But there is little she can do, as she and her father are barely subsisting themselves.
There are those who look down on Cussy and her father, because they are different from them. They are, in fact, blue-skinned people, and as such are considered to be colored abnormal because of the tint of their skin. The local doctor finds Cussy’s condition very interesting and wants to take her somewhere so people can study her. She’s reluctant, until circumstances cause her to reconsider her stance since doing so will benefit the people she cares about. All she wants is to be treated like other people, and to enjoy life a little, especially her precious books and patrons. But some people can’t see past the blue shade of her skin to the beautiful soul beneath. Not until she meets a most unusual man.
I fell in love with this book quickly. I have a soft spot for books and librarians, as my daughter is one, and I could see some of her in the spunky yet soft-spoken Cussy. I knew nothing about the Pack Horse Librarians, or about blue-skinned people, and was very interested in learning about them.
I love the way the author writes. You feel like you’re there, experiencing what Cussy goes through – her pain, her joy, her sorrows. And you can’t help but love Cussy yourself. This is a very colorful novel about being who you are and not judging people simply by the color of their skin, something many people in the US still have problems with. The historical information at the end of the book is just icing on the cake.
I liked this book so much, I bought copies for my daughters and my daughters-in-law, and one for myself, since I read a library copy originally. I know I will read this book over, more than once. This book is about life, about love, overcoming hardships, and making the most of what you have, as well as sharing that with the people around you. I hope you all love this book as much as I did.