Saturday, December 7, 2019

Susan Latimer, Clinic Nurse

By Maud McCurdy Welch, ©1957

Can a girl really forget the man she has once loved? That was the question Nurse Susan Latimer had to find an answer to. It had been two years since debonair Chris Graham had deserted her for another woman, yet the memory still hurt. Now he was back, acting as if nothing had happened. Could she bring herself to forgive him? Did she still love him? She didn’t know. Then there was handsome Dr. Delevan, constantly underfoot and eager to be friendly, but she couldn’t say a civil word to him. Why? There had to be a reason and Susan had to find the answer soon if she was ever to learn the truth about herself.


“It’s different with a girl, Gramp. A man’s life is broader. He can go places, do all sorts of things, where a girl’s is limited.”

Susan Latimer is a nurse at an odd sort of clinic where they appear to do gallbladder surgery in the office. The doctor she works for is on the verge of collapse from overwork, and indeed at one point is forced to take a couple weeks off to recover from a heart attack. A convenient potential replacement, though, in the form of Dr. John W. Delevan, has been hanging around the house for unspecified reasons. A former pupil of Gramp’s, who’d been a GP, Johnny is in town on what appears to be a permanent vacation from his life in Chicago, where he is being raised by his wealthy socialite aunt to become a wealthy socialite doctor with a wealthy socialite wife. Angela is auditioning for that last role, and shows up on Susan’s porch to sob entreaties that Susan convince Johnny to return home to Chicago and go through with their wedding. Susan, meanwhile, has disliked Johnny from the minute she accidentally drenched him with her garden hose, tee hee! “A strange young man, Johnny Delevan. She didn’t believe she could ever really like him, or understand him.” It seems a bit of a leap when she’s barely spoken to the man, but Susan, who otherwise befriends every stray cat, fiancée, and homeless drug-seeking waif, continues her unrelenting prejudice, claiming that they are “from different worlds. We have nothing in common.” But they do hang around together from time to time, usually with Susan being decidedly and unreasonably frosty. There’s just no possible way Susan and Johnny could ever be friends, much less anything more!

The plot is made up of a series of minor incidents, including the neighbor who turns out to be an heiress so distraught by her parents’ divorce that she dumps her fiancé and runs away: “Well, how could I believe in love anymore? I tried to believe, but I couldn’t.” Problem solved when she learns her parents have reconciled, and five minutes later she’s booked a reception hall and a plane back to her fiancé, God help the poor man. Then there’s Johnny’s friend Bill, who’s come to town to meet his fiancée, a sheltered innocent disobeying her mother to elope—but Elaine doesn’t arrive on the train, and there’s a tense couple of weeks with Bill moping around looking increasingly thin and distraught while Johnny and Susan argue whether Elaine is ever going to get there—yes she is—no she isn’t—until Susan just happens to run into her aimlessly wandering the streets. “I—I just got scared, I guess,” Elaine explains, all is forgiven, and Susan plans and executes a wedding in just 90 minutes.

And that’s just 20 pages of the book. To fill out the rest of it, on several occasions Susan and Johnny drive around looking for a house he used to live in, but they never find it. Susan loses control running down a mountain and nearly trips and falls, but Johnny catches her. Susan chews out Johnny for leaving Angela. Johnny hints on many occasions that he’s been played for a fool by women and will never fall for one again, thought any story that explains his hints never arrives. The man Susan had been engaged to but who had dumped her two years ago turns up and insists that she marry him next week. “You know you’re going to marry me,” he tells her. “You still love me.” Sure she does; how could she resist such a persuasive manner? Johnny tells Susan that he had been engaged to Angela but she had broken it off, then later changed her mind, but he did not want her back. And then Johnny goes back to Chicago, unable to refuse his aunt.

The conclusion is completely obvious and even nonsensical, as Susan goes from telling Johnny they can’t ever be friends, because, well, “I—it’s just a feeling I have,” she tells him firmly, to “Susan’s soft brown eyes were shining as she looked up at him” on the last page, because they’d “been fighting our love for each other long enough,” the excuse being that she thought he loved Angela and he thought she loved her ex-boyfriend, even if their animosity predated knowledge of either potential rival. Every hiccup in the story is wrapped up in a neat, sappy bow except, curiously, Johnny never finds his old house, which I’d have bet $1,000 he was going to buy for his new bride. Maybe author Maud McCurdy Welch lost track of that one of the many plot threads she’d scattered throughout the story. I felt as though I had read this book before; it has the atmosphere of a 1950s-era neighborhood, replete with many hours spent on the front porch with Gramp and Susan’s various young men. If not overtly bad, the mini stories aren’t that compelling, I didn’t enjoy any of the characters, and there’s a smidge too much nonsense and treacle here to make this an enjoyable book.

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