“All She Left Behind” by Jane Kirkpatrick

Cover of titular book, featuring a woman in an 1800s dress, hair in a bun, consuming much of the cover; after her waist, she starts to fade, greenery and a mountain taking precedenceBook: “All She Left Behind” by Jane Kirkpatrick
Published by Fleming H. Revell Company on 5th September, 2017
Genres: Christian fiction, Historical fiction
Format: Paperback, 343 pages
Rating: 3/5⭐
Source: Revell (received for free in exchange for an honest review)
Goodreads

Already well-versed in the natural healing properties of herbs and oils, Jennie Pickett longs to become a doctor. But the Oregon frontier of the 1870s doesn’t approve of such innovations as women attending medical school. To leave grief and guilt behind, as well as support herself and her challenging young son, Jennie cares for an elderly woman using skills she’s developed on her own. When her patient dies, Jennie discovers that her heart has become entangled with the woman’s widowed husband, a man many years her senior. Their unlikely romance may lead her to her ultimate goal—but the road will be winding and the way forward will not always be clear.

Based on a true story.

I have such mixed feelings about this book.

On one hand, I feel guilty for disliking certain aspects of the story because it’s based on a true story, but on the other, I feel I shouldn’t feel guilty.

What I liked

I favor historical fiction, because I’m more likely to forgive it for what it lacks—diversity. I liked that this was based on a true story, because I do tend to favor such stories—movies and books alike—so. The pacing was so Anne of Green Gables-esque, so I’m used to jumping ahead a year, then another few within a chapter. I appreciated reading a story referencing [native] Indians interacting with Americans back in the old days (1800s) in a more positive way.

I enjoyed the fictionalizing of historical events and being able to read a bit about her history—I feel like she should also have a Wikipedia page, not just her second husband, or at least be attributed to the developmental process to discovering Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (not acknowledged until the 1980s). 😅

What I didn’t like/What I have mixed feelings about

I understand addiction in the 1800s was alien as opposed to how it is viewed now, but I didn’t appreciate the way I felt as I read about it, in that all consumption of alcoholic beverages is deemed bad and a summoner of irreparable damage to one’s life. Drinking isn’t horrible in moderation. This reminded me much of an epiphany I’ve had many times regarding consuming things in moderation: it’s much easier to do so when they’re readily available, not hidden away because another thinks they’re bad. Because it is not things that are inherently good or bad, but people who make them so.

Jennie really stepped things up for the medical community, what with being one of the first female doctors and starting up a scholarships program for women to achieve their dreams. She left behind a legacy. However, I would have liked to read more about her family, much of whom she interacted with little after her marriage to Josiah in-text—even though it’s fictional; I just feel as though this could have really fleshed her character out a bit more.

Lastly, the things I most favored not was the writing and breaking of the fourth wall (happened about thrice). The writing reminded me of what I detested most about Here and Gone—what is so wrong with “and”?

Conclusion

I don’t know if I’d read more by Kirkpatrick, considering the writing structure is not of my preferences, though I could see myself doing so if interested in some historical fiction reminiscent of Anne of Green Gables.

Content warning: Abusive first husband

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