This book is one of the reasons I love historical fiction so much. It's based on the WPA Pack Horse Library Project and the Kentucky Blue People. It is set in the 1930s and is in a very depressed area of Kentucky. I learned so much reading this book about the people, this program and how bad racial division was in that time.
This is the story of Cussy Mary Carter who is a Pack Horse Librarian and also a blue skinned woman. She travels through the back woods of Kentucky to the remote poverty areas and to people who basically have nothing. On top of that, because she's blue skinned, she's looked down upon as inferior and racially unequal. I love the story of Bluet...what the people on her pack horse route call her. She is so kind hearted and has so much compassion. They love her. She loved bringing the written word to the poor who would otherwise never have books, magazines or anything written to read. She is connected to the families and cares about them very much. Her side kick is an aging mule named Junia. She is cantankerous and also very perceptive. She trusts only Bluet. She protects her. I fell in love with this mule. There were many passages that I felt anxious for them both but together they accomplish their goal of delivering the books and reading materials to the people.
This story is written in the dialect and language of the Kentucky back woods people. It gave the book even more elements of authenticity about the subject and how much these people didn't have. It's a coal mining community and the poorest of the poor worked in the mines. I was taken into these back woods and hollers with Bluet and found myself loving the families and people she cared so much for. There were other characters in the book that were not likable but they also brought the reality of how coloreds and blues were actually treated...as inferior human beings. It was a trying time back then for them.
This passage spoke about that:
"Nary a townsfolk, not one God-fearing soul, had welcomed me or mine into town, their churches, or homes in all my nineteen years on this earth. Instead, every hard Kentucky second they'd filled us with an emptiness from their hate and scorn. It was as if Blues weren't allowed to breathe the very same air their loving God had given them, not worthy of the tiniest spoonful He'd given to the smallest forest critter. I was nothing in their world. A nothingness to them."
I was in this book totally and completely. I couldn't put it down. Ms. Richardson writes so that I was in the Kentucky hollers, in the dilapidated cabins, with the starving and hungry families. I was on the remote trails with Bluet and hearing the wilderness sounds and smelling the smells. I had strong feelings all over the emotional map. It was a total immersion of an experience in the lives of the characters and "living" in the pages in this book.
This book is up there with one of my best reads so far this year.
I want to thank Bookish and Ms. Richardson for the amazing opportunity to read this book! It's been a journey that I will cherish and remember for a very long time.
I would love to give it way more than 5 stars! It's a must read in my opinion.