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Discussion Guide

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel

By Kim Michele Richardson

The bestselling historical fiction novel from Kim Michele Richardson, this is a novel following Cussy Mary, a packhorse librarian and her quest to bring books to the Appalachian community she loves, perfect for readers of William Kent Kreuger and Lisa Wingate. The perfect addition to your next book club!


The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.


Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.


Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.


This discussion guide was shared and sponsored in partnership with Sourcebooks. 


Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

The Kentucky Pack Horse program was implemented in 1935 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create women’s work programs and to assist economic recovery and build literacy. Looking at the novel, how did the program affect the people in this remote area? Do you think library programs are still a vital part of our society today?

How has a librarian or booklover impacted your life? Have you ever connected with a book or author in a meaningful way? Explain.

Missionaries, government, social workers, and various religious groups have always visited eastern Kentucky to reform, modernize, and mold hillfolk to their acceptable standards. Do you think Cussy faced this kind of prejudice from the outside world? Is there any prejudice or stigma associated with the people of Appalachia today?


“Kim Michele Richardson has written a fascinating novel about people almost forgotten by history: Kentucky’s  pack-horse librarians and “blue people.” The factual information alone would make this book a treasure, but with her impressive storytelling and empathy, Richardson gives us so much more.”

 Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of One Foot in Eden and Serena


“This is Richardson’s finest, as beautiful and honest as it is fierce and heart-wrenching, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek explores the fascinating and unique blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave Pack Horse librarians. A timeless and significant tale about poverty, intolerance, and how books can bring hope and light to even the darkest pocket of history.”

—Karen Abbott, New York Times bestselling author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy


“Richardson’s latest work is a hauntingly atmospheric love letter to the first mobile library in Kentucky and the fierce, brave Pack Horse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and—just as importantly—a compassionate human connection. Richardson’s rendering of stark poverty against the ferocity of the human spirit is irresistible. Add to this the history of the unique and oppressed blue-skinned people of Kentucky, and you’ve got an unputdownable work that holds real cultural significance.”

—Sara Gruen, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants