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The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Comparison, I provide your book club with a brief summary and comparison, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!

The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Comparison
The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Comparison
The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Comparison
The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Comparison

If you don’t know about it, there has been some controversy about the publication of The Giver of Stars soon after the publication of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

I actually saw The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek long before The Giver of Stars released, but passed it by because I thought the subject might be a little heavy based on the description and I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy book. When The Giver of Stars released, I had no idea by the cover that it was about Pack Horse Librarians, but after reading the description, my interest was peaked and I decided to read it.

The controversy revolves around possible plagiarism on Jojo Moyes part, asserting that parts of The Giver of Stars are too similar to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek to be a coincidence.

I read The Giver of Stars first, unaware of the controversy. After reading, I was shocked to see the accusations from many readers in reviews, many of them citing the Buzzfeed article where the similarities are outlined. Instead of reading the article, I decided to read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek next and form my own opinion.

After reading both, I was confused and surprised that so many readers were vehemently choosing one or the other. The books were very different to me and BOTH worth reading. I’ve completed separate posts going into more detail on each. You can check out the posts on The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek for more.

Yes, the topic is Pack Horse Librarians, a Works Progress Administration program enacted by Roosevelt in the 1930s to bring books to rural Kentucky, but both authors created a book on the same subject in very different way. After I finished both books, I did finally read the article and, to me, the similarities outlined were minor.

If you disagree, think about this–this is a new subject to fiction. No other books I can think of have been written on it. Yet, there are hundreds to thousands of novels written about World War II. In those books, we expect to see spies, someone facing starvation, someone being tortured physically or mentally by a Nazi, etc.

It’s not surprising to me that Moyes and Richardson would have studied the time period and the facts and come up with story elements that coincidentally are similar. Including adding colored librarians, because of the times we are in (and it’s just important), placing antagonists along the lonely routes through the mountains, because that seems the most logical way to add tension, and creating love interests, because readers love and expect this. As a writer, I read with that eye. I’m always considering what I would add to a book on the subject, and I have to say I would have added some form of those things myself.

Let me talk a little about how the two novels are very different rather than scrutinizing their similarities.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a novel about a single woman who faces severe persecution because of her Blue skin. This alone is worth reading about because it’s based on the real-life blue-skinned people of Kentucky, a new subject and fascinating for me. She is also a Pack Horse Librarian who takes books via horseback to her patrons in rural Appalachia. The book is primarily about her inner struggle to accept herself. It is written in a literary style. It does an exceptional job of highlighting the true-to-life details of life in Appalachia. And, it should be on your book club list.

The Giver of Stars is a friendship novel about five Pack Horse Librarians. It centers on two of the women and follows their struggles through love and life. The women fight to find their voices in a time and place where women didn’t have much say. It is a plot-driven novel that will have you cheering, but many of the true-to-life details of life in Appalachia are glossed over or not addressed. Still, any book club would love this book.

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Questions and Recipe

*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Questions and Recipe
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Questions and Recipe
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Questions and Recipe
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Questions and Recipe

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is the first bestseller of Kim Michele Richardson, but it isn’t her first book. She has written three other novels and one non-fiction book. And, her writing reflects that experience.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek tackles two unique subjects in history that you may not be familiar with–the Pack Horse Librarians and the Blue People of Kentucky. The Pack Horse Library was part of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration in 1930s. The blue-skinned people of Kentucky were a real group of people born with blue skin who lived in the mountains of Appalachia.

Richardson’s main character, Cussy Mary, is both a Pack Horse Librarian and a Blue. The novel follows her as she struggles through the restraints placed on her as a woman at the time and the discrimination she faces as a Blue person, which was considered colored.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The novel, which I would consider literary in style, unapologetically describes both the poverty and the pride of the residents of Appalachia. I originally delayed reading this novel because I knew the subject would be somewhat dark, and it is. But, it is something that I think needed to be written.

In addition to tackling poverty and starvation, Richardson addresses discrimination in a way that will have the reader examining her own heart. Cussy Mary is a Blue, a skin color most of us are unfamiliar with, but as a Blue she faces intense discrimination throughout the story (it is the primary obstacle). Through Cussy’s story, Richardson takes us on a journey of empathy with Cussy’s plight, confusion and anger when others refuse to see her as equal, and, finally, examination of our own lingering prejudices. It is a timely book for readers right now.

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Scripture Cake

*If you are new here, WELCOME! For this post, I provide you with a delicious recipe for Scripture Cake!

Scripture Cake with Figs, Almonds and Honey
Scripture Cake with Figs, Almonds and Honey

Did you know that scripture cakes were very popular in Appalachia and the South at the turn of the 20th century? Maybe you’re wondering what exactly a scripture cake is.

Women at the time would find verses from the Bible that mention a food ingredient and write out an entire recipe using just verses in an effort to teach their children the Bible and cooking at the same time.

A recipe might look like this:

3/4 cups Judges 5:25, last clause

2 cups Jeremiah 6:20

5 Jeremiah 17:11, seperated

And, etc.

As a Christian, I find this fascinating. Special moments from my childhood mostly revolve around a shared experience with a relative who was teaching me something during our time together. Most of the time it was one of my precious grandmothers.

I feel like many cultures across the world do a wonderful job of passing down culture and beliefs through shared experiences and rituals, but sometimes we are so busy here in America that we forget how important that is.

If you feel the same, consider making one of these scripture cakes with someone special in your family. Spend time in the kitchen together. Discuss what you value and why it’s important. Show love and bond as you work together!

After looking at several old recipes, I came up with my own twist and added a drizzle of golden syrup across the top (inspired by this blog). The result is a rich Scripture Cake full of flavor and packed with spices, figs, almonds, and raisins.

If you’re stopping by here while searching for recipes, you may not know that the recipes here are all inspired by books! This particular recipe was created after reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

If you love reading, this book is about a fascinating and little known piece of American history–pack horse librarians and blue-skinned people. Check out more about this great book HERE!

Keep reading for the full recipe for Scripture Cake including companion Bible verses!

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions

*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I provide your book club with a brief summary and book club discussion questions in that order!

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions

If you haven’t checked out the previous post in the series where I share my thoughts on The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and a fun activity and food ideas for your book club, check out that post HERE.

I’ve also written another post about the controversy surrounding the novel and another similar novel, The Giver of Stars. You can read about that HERE.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

In this post, I’ll review the premise of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and share book club discussion questions that are sure to get your book club talking!


Looking for your next great read? Check out these similar books…


Here’s a brief summary of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek:

In the poverty-stricken Appalachian town of Troublesome Creek, Roosevelt’s Pack Horse Library Project aims to bring education to citizens so far up the mountains that they’ve rarely seen a book. Cussy Mary is a proud Pack Horse Librarian, but she’s also a Blue. The last of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky, according to her father, a group thought of as untouchable and cursed. As she travels to her patrons, delivering them hope through books, Cussy must fight against nature, starvation, racial prejudices, sexism, and her own inner-critic. As she struggles to fight the shame she’s carried for so long, she finds the courage to be herself and speak the voice that’s been quieted.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Discussion Questions:

*WARNING: May contain spoilers!

  1. Before reading the novel had you ever heard about the blue-skinned people of Kentucky? What about the Pack Horse Librarians? Did you research anything more about the two outside of reading? Discuss any of your discoveries.
  2. The book starts off with Cussy Mary being courted by some truly terrible suitors and finally married off to Charles Frazier. How did you feel about Pa encouraging this despite Cussy’s objections? When things went awry and she moved back home were you able to forgive him? What instances of gender inequality most shocked you from the book?
  3. Discuss Pa and other character’s pride and refusal to work for the WPA program despite its benefits. R.C. is refused his girl’s hand because he works for the “We Poke Along” program. Why do you think that folks “would rather starve than participate?” Do you have any family history with the WPA? Did you or your family experience any stigma from participating in the program?
  4. Cussy Mary and the Pack Horse Librarians encourage knowledge, reading, and education by bringing their far-reaching patrons books that would otherwise have never reached them in hopes of improving their lives. Yet, Cussy never has the courage herself to dream bigger, to consider leaving Kentucky, or to stand up to the discrimination she faces. Why do you think this is?
  5. The book ends fairly abruptly after things fall apart at Cussy’s second wedding. We are given a short glimpse into the future four years after in an epilogue-like chapter, but not much. Did this leave you wanting? Did you appreciate the events at the wedding because they were true-to-life or did they leave you disappointed and wishing for more vindication?
  6. Cussy loses several treasured people over the course of the book reminding the reader of the harsh life in Appalachia. Which loss touched you the most? Do you think that there was anything that might have happened to prevent any of them? Did the hardships the characters endured make you appreciate your own blessings?
  7.  Cussy Mary is called a heathen, a sinner, even a witch in the novel primarily due to her blue color and fear that resulted from not knowing what caused it. Even when Doc finds the underlying reason for Cussy’s color, even after she takes medication that turns her white temporarily, she is still subject to discrimination and hatred. Discuss the scenes at the Fourth of July celebration and at her wedding. Why do you think that the people still refused to accept Cussy even after her disease is discovered?
  8. How did Richardson’s use of a Kentucky Blue, a skin color you might have never heard of before, illuminate racial discrimination to you in a new way? Did being white change who Cussy was or just how other people saw her? Do you think Cussy should have continued the medication to make her life easier despite the side effects?
  9. Cussy and the other Pack Horse librarians traveled miles each day alone through the mountains. Cussy spent every night alone as her Pa went to work at the coal mine. Would you have been as brave? If you didn’t think Cussy found her full voice and stood up for herself, does thinking about this change how courageous she was in your mind? How do you think the definition of courage changes relative to time period and economic conditions?
  10. Who was your favorite of Cussy’s patrons? Which character did you despise the most? And, lastly, what were your thoughts on Jackson Lovett?

Don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek! You can find fun book club activities and delicious food ideas HERE.

What did you think of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? Have you read The Giver of Stars? What are some other books on niche historical topics that you have read?

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost to you or the featured book’s author). All opinions are 100% mine and every book, unless otherwise noted, is handpicked by me to be featured on the site.

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