Book Woman saga continues with daughter

Jan Jones

A few years ago, I read Kim Michele Richardson’s “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.” It sketches out life in 1930s Kentucky and relates how the women of The Pack Horse Library Project would ride a circuit into the surrounding mountain to deliver library materials to the isolated homes there. This week I discovered the next book in the series, “The Book Woman’s Daughter.”

Cussy Mary Lovet had been one of the pioneer book women. She was afflicted by an inherited blood condition causing a bluing of her skin. Some call it a sign of evil and want her dead.

Her color didn’t matter to Pete Lovet. They broke the law and got married. When Willie and Angline Moffet died leaving an infant daughter, Cussy and Pete took her in.

When the local sheriff came to arrest Cussy and Pete for inter-marrying, Cussy knew that Honey would be sent to a terrible reform school, so she gave Honey her cantankerous mule Junia and sends the 16-year-old to hide with the elderly Retta outside of Troublesome Creek.

Sadly, dear Retta passes away soon after she arrives. Then Retta’s son sells the house Honey was supposed to inherit. Luckily, her grandpa’s cabin is standing and well stocked, so she moves there.

If found, Honey could be sent directly to the reform school, but Honey and family have friends, and between them and Honey’s court appointed lawyer do their best to help Honey remain free.

One of her new friends is Pearl Grant. Pearl is just older than Honey and has been hired as the new fire tower warden. They quickly become friends and stand together when the fire tower is vandalized and set afire. It is obviously the work of the Gillis family, but without proof Pearl can do nothing.

The area has resurrected the Pack Horse library and Honey manages to get hired. On one of her stops, she helps save Johnny Gillis from death in an old well. When Perry Gillis finds out, he gives his wife a severe beating.

Bonnie and her daughter, Wrenna, are also patrons. Bonnie’s husband died in the mines and Bonnie now works there. The mines are bad places for women. Sexual assault is common, but Bonnie will not let them chase her away.

Little Wrenna tends to wander the area with her pet rooster, Tommy. He is very protective of the child, and miners like Perry Gillis delight in tormenting the pair.

When Honey stumbles across an old newspaper account of a young man who obtained emancipation at age 14, she shares it with her lawyer and he sets her case in motion. It is either get married or become emancipated.

One afternoon, Perry Gillis is tormenting Bonnie, Wrenna and Tommy when the rooster launches a savage attack. Gillis is badly injured, but no one tries to blame Wrenna or Bonnie. Only Honey can see that this was a carefully planned event. Meanwhile, Guylabelle Gillis has disappeared. Honey tells her lawyer what she overheard and suddenly they are at the Gillis cabin where little Johnny begs her to save his mama from the well.

Perry dies before he can be tried, but Honey knows she is still in danger from his kin. Now that she’s free, Honey can accept a date with Francis. She is eager to see what that relationship leads. The wheels of change are ever so slowly moving so Honey must stay alert, work hard, and pray for a better future.

It is hard to imagine what life was like at that time and place. We’ve come a long way, but our freedoms can be lost in a heartbeat.


Book: The Book Woman’s Daughter (Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Book 2)

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Year published: 2022

Number of pages: 352