*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 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 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.
Despite it’s serious and heavy subject, I really enjoyed The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and flew through the pages. I highly recommend reading it as a group as it will provide a lively conversation on unexpected subjects! Beyond that, it’s fascinating to learn a new piece of American history.
I cannot write a post about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek without addressing the controversy that has come to light around it and The Giver of Stars, which I’ve also featured. Personally, I found the two books to be so completely different that I cannot help but recommend you read both books. If you are unfamiliar with the controversy, I’m addressing it in a separate post where I compare both books, provide discussion questions that contrast the books, and a recipe. That said, I urge you to read both books before you form any opinion!
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a wonderful choice for a book club read. It is rare that a book brings me to tears, but this one did, twice. In any event, there is plenty to discuss about The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and who doesn’t love a novel piece of American history? On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious and really unique recipe for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, so if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!
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.
For The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Activity:
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek centers around two little known American history tidbits – the Pack Horse Librarians and the blue-skinned people of Appalachia. For the Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Club Activity consider playing Book Club Balderdash.
Choose several of the crazy historical facts from this list and write them out on 3 X 5 index cards. Mix in some of your own false history by writing untrue historical facts on some index cards. Mark true or false at the bottom of each card so only the reader can see whether it is actual history or not.
Make sure there are enough cards for at least one round with each book club member receiving a card to read aloud.
Place all the cards (true and false) in a large bowl and allow members to draw.
Each member will read aloud their card and every other member will raise her hand if she believes it to be truth.
If the historical event is in fact true, the members with raised hands get a point. If it’s false, the members without raised hands get a point.
Continue until all cards are read and the member with the most points wins!
Because the subjects are so similar, you can also check out my suggested book club activity for The Giver of Stars HERE if this idea doesn’t fit for your group!
For The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Food Ideas and Recipe:
The characters in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek face extreme poverty and limited resources. Several of the characters, if not all, are threatened by starvation. I see this often in WWII novels and finding a recipe to create is difficult (See my struggle to find a recipe for The Nightingale here). That said, although the threat of food scarcity is palpable in the novel, Richardson writes about many foods the character’s survive with in the pages.
While I won’t be mentioning rabbit or rattle snake here, if your book club is open, you could always try it! Here are several great food ideas for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek:
- Chapter 8 – Queenie shares her fat biscuit and Cussy shares her apple when Cussy shows Queenie her route after starting at the library. (Also Jackson gives Junia lots of apples!)
- Chapter 9 – Henry gives Cussy his pineapple lifesaver when she visits school.
- Chapter 10 – Fried collards greens, hominy, biscuits and gravy, and skillet molasses bread are all mentioned as Cussy visits her patrons.
- Chapter 12 – Mrs. Evans gives Cussy a slice of cracklin’ bread (see my recipe here!) for reading her son’s letter and Cussy gives it to Timmy.
- Chapter 17 – Doc gives Cussy a pear, some cheese, and some honey after their first trip to Lexington.
- Chapter 26 – Cussy cooks nettle soup for dinner after Angeline saves her from the rattle snake. Also, at the Pie Bake dance, Cussy reminisces the sorghum pie with buttery crust she would have made.
- Chapter 32 – Attendees enjoy pies, cakes, deer sausage and watermelon at the Independence Day festival. Cussy brings a scripture cake made with cinnamon, figs and expensive sorghum in hopes of being accepted.
I was very intrigued when I read that Cussy Mary made a scripture cake. After a little research, I learned that scripture cakes were very popular in Appalachia at the turn of the 20th century. Women took verses from the Bible that mention a food ingredient and wrote 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
I also thought this would be a great recipe to symbolize what the novel is really about. Cussy Mary takes the extra trouble and uses precious money to bake the scripture cake and in that dessert you can feel the weight of everything she is hoping will happen at the festival. All of the discrimination and prejudice come up against Cussy’s bid for grace and what occurs is really tragic.
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 cake full of flavor and packed with spices, figs, almonds, and raisins.
Like the novel, this treat is a piece of history that your book club is sure to love learning about, and tasting! Cussy Mary uses sorghum syrup, but I was not able to find any locally. If you have access to it or wish to order it, you can replace the honey in the recipe with sorghum, which will deepen the flavor.
So, if you are looking for food ideas for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I think your book club will be happy to try Scripture Cake with Golden Syrup! Click HERE for the full recipe!
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a great book club choice with plenty to discuss. Despite the controversy around the book, it is a well-written fictional account of two fascinating pieces of American history and a true-to-life look at poverty in Appalachia.
If you are looking for a book that will spur discussion and keep you turning pages, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a great choice.
On that note, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek as part of this series, so if you are looking for the Scripture Cake recipe and more, keep reading!
Click HERE for the book club questions for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek!
Click HERE for the Scripture Cake recipe for your book club for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek!
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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