The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson is the sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, but it can also be read as a stand-alone. The story begins in 1953 when a blue woman with a rare blood disorder, Cussy Mary Carter Lovett, and her white husband, Jackson Lovett, are arrested and imprisoned for violating the miscegenation laws of Kentucky. Their sixteen-year-old adopted daughter, Honey, must evade the law and head back to Troublesome Creek to live with an elderly friend, Retta. If Honey does not escape, she will be confined to the Kentucky House of Reform, a children’s prison, where she will be forced to do hard labor until the age of twenty-one (21).
This is a story about strong women and the power of sisterhood. While still a teenager, Honey must grow up quickly and become a wage earner. She befriends other women including a frontier nurse, a young female forest fire lookout, and a female miner. As in most parts of the country in 1953, men dominated the workforce and treated working women unfairly. There are interesting side stories about Junia, a mule, and Tommy, a rooster, who protect their female owners. Additionally, light is shed on the terrible condition of the prisons and forced medical experiments and surgeries on patients. The author has clearly done her research in writing about these topics.
There were some things that I didn’t like as much about the story. First, even though the Pack Horse Librarian service had been discontinued in 1943, the Troublesome Creek Library happens to revive the project just as Honey arrived in town in need of a job. It was too coincidental. Second, the book occasionally felt like it was focused on man-hating. The story has a corrupt Sheriff, an unjust coal mine boss, and a prejudiced bully and his family who will stop at nothing to get their way. These bad guys were stereotypical and slightly over-the-top. At one point Honey says like all Kentucky women, she knows when to stand down to men. It is a means of survival taught to girls, instilled at a young age.
4-stars. Many thanks to #Netgalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for my advanced reader copy. This book will be published on Tuesday, May 3, 2022.