Sourcebooks/Landmark. 320 pages. Trade Paperback Original. $15.99.
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. Set in the heart of the Great Depression, this engaging story rests on two little-known historical features. One of these is the existence of a shunned community of blue-skinned people who fight racial prejudice on a daily basis. However, they are not racially different from the whites who taunt and disrespect them. The are Caucasian in physical features and in all ways but skin color. Nonetheless, being different dooms them, defining them as misfits.
The other historical feature is the author’s exploration of the “book women,” workers in one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s projects to rebuild the U. S. economy and provide useful employments along the way.
The project is essentially educational – an attempt to bring reading materials – and enhanced literacy — to isolated communities. In this case, the communities are in Kentucky’s coal mining belt. The Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project is staffed by dedicated people, mostly women, who not only travel arduous routes to serve their clients, but who bring an unexpected, uplifting enlightenment to those who are brave enough to find value in books other than the bible.
These workers help the children, and even the parents, develop a love of reading along with greater reading skill. They provide reading suggestions, they keep tabs on the books in their charge, and their visits become high points on the calendars of those whom they visit. . . .
To read the full review, as it appears in the Southern Literary Review, click here: Book Woman