I loved reading this novel, even though a problem emerged towards the end of it (which I’ll get to later.) Who wouldn’t love a story about a young girl (Willa is 18 years old) who discovers a love for medicine and her life’s calling after meeting another woman doctor who believes in her?
Poor Willa MacCarthy inhabits a devout Catholic household in which she has to contend with four older brothers and two parents bent on sending her to Convent Prison (in which she will have to remain silent for ten hours a day).
Why does a brilliant, feisty young woman even consider this form of death? Because she holds a terrible secret that gnaws at her every day of her life. Going to convent would make reparations. Or at least, so she thinks.
And so author Amy Trueblood sweeps us up into a large Irish Catholic family, living in San Francisco in 1936 (just when the Golden Gate Bridge was being constructed) with their love, their warmth, their secrets. Her characters jump off the page, and she situates you in that era of San Francisco’s history with her telling details.
So what is the problem?
It occurs towards the end of the novel. By this time it is blindingly clear what is going to happen. But Ms. Trueblood is not confident enough in her audience to appreciate this. The consequence is that the material becomes unnecessarily repetitive, which spoils an otherwise wonderful novel. Four Stars.