Thursday, February 9, 2017

Homecoming Nurse

By Rose Dana 
(pseud. William E. Daniel Ross), ©1968

When Jane Weaver’s marriage ended unhappily, she decided to work as a nurse on Boston rather than return to the small town where the romance had begun. But then her father’s hospital in Whitebridge was threatened by a lack of funds and Jane, out of loyalty, went home to help. She had to risk many things – reminders of her past, the censure of her friends, a meeting with Steve Benson, the man she had jilted. But also, Whitebridge itself had changed. A new black doctor had introduced the racial question, people had grown subtly different, and Jane found not the threads of her old life but a new challenge to her heart.


“Then your marriage did turn out as badly as everyone predicted?”

“ ‘Stay away from all that thinking,’ was his advice. ‘Let me do the planning for us.’ ”

“I wish I’d had the good sense to find myself a husband when I was your age.”

“Poor Dr. Davis has lots of ability, even if he is colored, which I’m sure he can’t help. But it does make some of the patients uneasy with him.”

“She looked the mental case she was.”

This book has more taboos—divorce! racially exclusive country clubs! mental illness! chasing married men! Jello molds!—than any other VNRN I’ve encountered. Unfortunately, that’s about the only thing that sets it apart from the others.

Jane Weaver RN is returning home to Whitebridge, NH, after a two-year stint at the Peter Bent Brigham in Boston. Seems the New Hampshire hospital her father, Dr. Graham Weaver, has championed, is on the brink of being closed by the town council. A larger hospital just an hour’s drive away is siphoning off their patients, and the stress of keeping the hospital afloat is allegedly sapping her father’s health, so she is lured back to care for him.

She’s nervous about seeing her father again, after her marriage to a handsome but alcoholic golf pro, of which he had disapproved from the start, had fallen apart after eight months, but she suffers little from this, apart from some a few catty remarks from the locals and Jane’s feelings that “I have to expect to suffer for my stupidity, no one really seems to care. And speaking of uncaring, once home, Jane spends little time with her reportedly failing father—who seems tired but otherwise well, actually—and doesn’t pay much attention to how he’s feeling, so it’s a little unclear why she would chuck her former life.

Jane’s best friend in Whitebridge, Maggie, is not really dating Dr. Boyd Davis, which is a good thing, because even if he is a polite, competent doctor, the scandal is that he’s black, so his “friendship” with Maggie, clearly a love affair, cannot be called such. Jane is concerned that, should they marry, Dr. Boyd’s practice will be shunned. As it is, the local country club bars Dr. Boyd from the dining room, which doesn’t prevent the town mayor, Jane, Dr. Boyd’s medical colleagues, or even his apparent girlfriend from dining there. “I was going to turn in my membership card,” says Maggie. “But then I realized what a foolish, futile gesture that would be. Everyone would know I did it because I feel as I do about Boyd. They’d pity me, but they wouldn’t change their minds.” All I can say is that it’s a good thing Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King didn’t share her apathy.

You will not be at all surprised to learn that a serious accident occurs in which the victim requires immediate surgery and cannot be transported to the larger hospital in time. In an interesting dramatic turh, the patient undergoes surgery in the Whitebridge hospital and dies nonetheless, and with her any hope for keeping Benson Memorial open. As Dr. Boyd and other medical colleagues of Dr. Weaver’s flee New Hampshire for warmer pastures and the hospital winds down, will some miracle solution pop up and save the day?

This book offers more to chew on than the usual VNRN. Though the attitudes are extremely dated, the problems with Dr. Boyd and Maggie, and the small hospital’s relevance in the modern era are not presented as obvious one-sided arguments. Apart from that, though, and a couple of wild scenes with the books’ more outrageous vixens, it’s a fairly bland story without much zip to it. Dan Ross, writing here as Rose Dana, has never been one of my favorite authors (witness his cumulative C average over six books). Here he manages to avoid his most outrageous sins (relentlessly referring to characters as “the dark girl,” for one) but can’t really pull off a good book even with more complex themes than usual. If I am compelled by my mission to read his books, you, fortunately, have other options. 

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