First, thank you to #Netgalley for a copy for this book in exchange for a fair review.
This book is the sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by the same author. It is the book that involved author JoJo Moyes in an accusation of plagiarism due to the similarity of some passages of her book on the same subject. I have also read nonfiction books on the pack horse librarians–those books are at the end of the linked post.
In first book, we met Cussy Mary Carter is a “Blue,” a person with a rare condition that turns her skin blue. This time we are treated to the story of her daughter, “Honey.” This time both miscegenation and eugenics rear their ugly heads in the hills and hollars of the Eastern Kentucky of the early 1950s. Cussy and her husband are arrested for miscegenation–the marrying of white and black, and are thrown in prison. That leaves their daughter, Honey, a little short of 18, with having to have a guardian or face being sent to reform school until age 21. Her first guardian dies, leaving her vulnerable. But will a job with a new version of the pack horse librarians help her to win legal emancipation? Elsewhere in the community, someone is terrorizing the new female forest service fire-watcher. In prison, near Louisville, Cussy is subjected to lingering eugenics laws and forcibly sterilized while her husband rides out isolation from a prison polio epidemic.
If anything, I thought this book was as good as the first one. There was plenty of action, a few good friendships for Honey, and lots of ways to see society trying to change. I loved all of that. Firewatcher Pearl, widowed single Mom and trailblazing female miner, Bonnie, and store clerk. Francis open up new vistas for Honey and help her take those last few steps out of childhood and into adulthood.
My only dislike was the insistence that Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Lady Chatterly’s Lover were put into the court scene. It was not only in the “back woods” of Kentucky that people objected to these books. This was the 1950s–not today, people were much more conservative (even though my paternal grandmother bought Lady Chatterly). I would not have been shocked if someone had ended a library outreach program in the 1950s over even one of those books–even if they were not owned by the library itself (as was the case in the story). I thought that was cramming a bit too much of 2022 into the story. [For those new here, I am a librarian. I am very well-versed in the censorship debates].
In spite of this one little blip, I thought this was an excellent read. I honestly hope there will be a third book.
The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson