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The Book Woman's Daughter - a solid follow up novel


The Book Woman's Daughter #2 by Kim Michele Richardson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published May 2022, 352 pages


I read and absolutely loved The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek - one of my favorite books from 2020. The storytelling was excellent and learning about the blue people of Kentucky was new to me. This book is a strong follow-up. Although this can certainly be read as a standalone, I'd recommend reading Troublesome Creek first to get the full background.


THE PLOT

The story picks up with Cussy's daughter, Honey, at age 16. Very early in the story her adopted parents are arrested for their "mixed marriage", leaving Honey alone. Since she's underage (and a blue), the state wants to send her to the state orphanage / prison until she's 21, which she strongly resists (and who wouldn't?). Her parents have arranged for her to stay with long time family friend, the elderly but indomitable Retta.


As she tries to be self-sufficient, Honey eventually takes on the book route her mother had and gains the appreciation and respect of most of the outlying families that don't have access to schooling or books. There's the expected abusive and nasty men characters. There are many female characters introduced, all with problems inherent in being female and the unjust way laws favor men, particularly white men. There's a bit of societal philosophizing throughout, but it's not preachy or distracting.

Honey makes a friend of another young lady that is also trying to forge her own path as a fire spotter. She had to have more education and dedication than the men applying for the job and when she gets the job - well, she's hassled and put in danger since she took a job from a man (unqualified) who wanted work. She and Honey support and encourage each other through the ups and downs of dealing with growing up and fighting for independence.


MY THOUGHTS

This is a great coming of age story of a young girl taking control of her life and trying to avoid the distinctly terrible option of what is essentially a prison sentence. She is determined to live life on her own terms and Honey is portrayed as a teenager - she knows what she ultimately wants, she's just not sure how to get there. That's well done.


There's a strong theme of women who resist - resist the way men and laws that are made by men FOR men, try to control women. Different female characters are introduced to represent different struggles that women in that time (and now) have trying to survive and thrive in a world designed by and for men. There's also a pretty strong racism component as people in the community condemn her and her mom as non-white, therefore "it" rather than a person. My blood boiled when I read those comments by the social worker!


There's budding friendship, budding romance, and Junia the donkey is still around and ornery as ever. The descriptions of the hills of Kentucky, the southern food (some stuff I've never heard of), and the events of the time are very well told - nicely descriptive. My quibble with the book is that it felt TOO feminist somehow. Too obviously trying to cover all these different female issues in a short book. I also felt like the story was maybe TOO similar to the first - which I guess is to be expected since the setting is the same and she ends up picking up her mom's old route. But still.....I expected a little more .... unexpected developments, maybe.


Still, a strong, entertaining, thought provoking read.





photo of Appalachia via Unsplash


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