*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!
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.
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!
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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:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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!
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