"Bringing the written word to others would keep me free," insists Honey Lovett, the titular character of The Book Woman's Daughter, the sequel to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. But Honey--the last of the "Blues," descended from the French with a genetic trait that causes blue skin--knows well the Kentucky backwoods version of justice that imprisoned her parents for miscegenation. In the 1950s, it "don't take much for a Blue" to be "a target for cruel folks."
Honey, on her own at nearly 17, applies for her Mama's Pack Horse librarian position when it reopens. As a legal orphan--even an employed one--she could be sent to the brutal Kentucky House of Reform. Honey clings to her freedom, armed with her Mama's grit and her ornery but loyal mule, Junia, who knows the paths to the hill folks, eager for books. The contrast of the dominant American culture in the 1950s and the norms of the "grandmother mountains" is stark. Honey delivers magazines, is introduced to popular music on 45 rpm records and learns to use a pay telephone. But chauvinism and corruption run deep in "ol' 'Tucky land" for Honey and her new "sister" friends. One bucks tradition by working in the coal mines; another is a fire lookout. Longtime Troublesome Creek friends and a tenacious lawyer boost Honey's hopes, but the suspense heightens as ignorant unkindness and archaic laws threaten her future. Readers unfamiliar with Richardson's earlier novel will still enjoy this; she includes Mama's experiences in Honey's coming-of-age story, a gripping and cautiously optimistic tale. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.