This book was not on my radar until my library book club chose it so we could all read it digitally and discuss it via video conference. I’m thankful for a library that has invested in digital media so while we are all sheltering in place and maintaining social distancing, we can still keep up the practice of reading and discussing books.
The book is set in eastern Kentucky during the Depression. The WPA is sponsoring a program by which women, and a few men, haul books from small towns up to the remote mountains and hollers where residents are cut off from libraries. The story centers are Cussy Mary Carter. Who also happens to be a member of the Blue People of Kentucky. What’s that now? You’ve not heard of them? Neither had I until I did a search and found out that this was a genetic test of a family on Kentucky. Look it up. It’s a fascinating rabbit hole to fall down. Back to the summary.
Cussy not only has to deal with poverty, misogyny, but also racism. Due to the Jim Crow laws, she’s considered “colored” since she’s not white. While it’s an interesting way to bring up racism, there were times I wasn’t sure this was handled well. It does bring to light the hypocrisy of such laws since ethnically she is “White” but clearly that doesn’t matter.
If you’ve ever read or seen “Christy” this reminds me a lot of that except this time it’s one of the residents telling the story. It’s good to be reminded that there exists this wilderness in Appalachia a world far removed from the rest of us. Not only due to terrain but in mindset. I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would settle in a place that is nigh impossible to get to let alone unfarmable. I’m at a loss to know what the end game was of the original inhabitants.
This was a fast, engaging read and one I enjoyed immensely listening to on audio because of the accents. Great for a beach read, road trip, or book club.