Cussy Mary, known by Bluet by the townspeople of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky for her blue skin, is a packhorse librarian and the last-living blue-skinned woman of Kentucky. Her life has been hard–she has been treated like an outcast because of the color of her skin, yet she’s chosen to make the best of her life and cart library books all around the mountains of Kentucky on her mule. Despite a marriage that went awry, Cussy Mary sees the best in people by befriending the weak and outcast among her patrons, the poor and lost people of the Kentucky mountains. She cares for them as if they were her own kin even when they won’t let her in their homes or deign to touch her and brings them food and books as she goes on her routes.
Cussy Mary’s story is one of resilience, courage, and hope. She faces the worst of human nature: prejudice, hatred, and poverty in its ugliest stripes. Yet she chooses kindness, perseverance, and deep compassion for others, and she finds friendship in her fellow librarians, her patrons, and her family. Her life is an incredibly hard one, both because of the color of her skin and because of the difficult life as a widow in the poor Kentucky mountains. Yet her determination to care for others and make the best life for herself, her pa, and those she loves shines through. I fell in love with Cussy Mary as well as many of the other characters, like her Pa, Angeline, Jackson, and Henry. The story was heartbreaking at points as any story on poverty and prejudice is wont to be, but Cussy Mary is deeply inspiring. Though she struggles with the way her life has been hampered by the color of her skin, she still yearns for better things, for a richer life. It’s relatable, even for those of us who have never experienced such hatred.
I really enjoyed Cussy Mary’s story. Parts of it were a bit too trite and sentimental for me, but overall I loved her resilience. Her voice was relatable and beautiful. I also enjoyed the immersion into the setting of Troublesome Creek and its people. While sometimes the plot line felt a bit muddled to me, I really enjoyed getting to know the side characters as well as daily life in Troublesome. It was a hard life, and it’s hard for me to grasp it. Most of all, I loved Jackson Levitt. He is the dream.