This book has spawned a remarkable response, including at least four “picks,” like the LibraryReads Pick, chosen by librarians. It is set in 1936 in the Troublesome Creek watershed of Knott County in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. The protagonist, Cussy Mary Carter, is one of the last people with methemoglobinemia, a very rare condition - perhaps in reality occurring in only one family - caused by abnormally low oxygen in the blood turning it dark and thus causing the skin of very fair people to appear blue. Because this condition has been linked to in-breeding, it has been the subject of very exaggerated negative stereotypes both within and beyond the region. In this novel, Cussy Mary Carter becomes one of the New Deal’s Pack Horse Librarians, taking books to remote roadless communities. Again, this sets her apart. The author, Kim Michele Richardson grew up in an orphanage and as a foster child and became homeless at the age of 14, so her empathy with her protagonist is great, and she manages to tackle these subjects – fraught with controversy – with insight and sensitivity. “Readers are likely to find Ms. Richardson’s fourth novel to be one of the most original and unusual contributions they will encounter in the realm of the current literature of the American South. Ms. Richardson creates an unexpected poetry out of Cussy’s voice and speech patterns. That voice is not the only kind of unexpected beauty in this surprising novel.” - May Read of The Month Southern Literary Review. “A rare literary adventure that casts librarians as heroes, smart tough women on horseback in rough terrain doing the brave and hard work of getting the right book into the right hands. Richardson has weaved an inspiring tale about the power of literature.” -Alexander Chee. This is the fourth novel set in rural Kentucky by Kim Michele Richardson who was born and still lives in Kentucky.
Napierville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, 2019. 306 pages. Trade paperback.
Napierville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2019. 308 pages with a Discussion Guide and a Conversation with the Author. Trade paperback.