Monday, December 30, 2019

The Story of Andrea Fields Woman and Doctor

By Elizabeth Seifert, ©1950

"Is that the Doctor?"
"Yes it is."
"Why, she’s a woman!"

Andrea Fields had heard these words many times. But until now she had never doubted herself as a doctor … or as a woman. Because now she knew that Luke Liddell wanted her. That he was ready to take her, without one backward glance at his wife … or the town … or his reputation. She loved Luke. But she loved medicine, too. Yet the inner woman … the trhilling, desirable and desiring creature Luke had awakened in her … hungered for love—demanded love. Luke knew it, too. And Luke would not let her go. How long, how long, she wondered, could she endure it? How long resist?


"Holidays are why they have Residents."

"He went to medical school at Harvard or Yale—some eastern school. He’s a nobody, obviously."

"I’ve been a Resident. I know they do anything the janitor doesn’t get around to."

Sometimes I develop a little grudge against a book, usually through little fault of its own, and my own prejudice makes me keep pushing it to the bottom of the pile. So it was with Andrea Fields, Woman and Doctor. Part of it was the title, which you must acknowledge is a complete dud. And it’s long, 256 pages, so I imagined it to be a conceited thing. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I found this truly lovely, smart, rewarding story inside the bland cover.
Woman and Doctor Andrea Fields has returned to her home town of Claxton, Missouri, at the request of her manipulative Aunt Sophia, who has a lot of money and no husband or children, so she’s looking for someone to puppet around. She sends Andrea off to work with the town GP Dr. Martin Luther Faust, one of these ole-timey quacks who really loves his patients but whose methods are a century old. To Dr. Faust’s credit, and Andrea’s, they debate his methods, and he acknowledges his shortcomings, as well as his inability to change in the last few years of his working life. He pushes Andrea to dump him for the shiny new clinic that’s opened up down the street, and soon she is working there full-time with a lovely group of (all male) doctors who practice evidence-based medicine, work collaboratively, and support Andrea as the valuable and talented pediatrician she is.

The only problem is that one of the doctors, Luke Liddell, is a boy whom Andrea grew up with—and whom she fell in love with. She’s arrived in town just four weeks before Luke’s wedding, and though he instantly realizes there’s something between him and Andrea, and admits there is little to nothing between him and the 18-year-old virgin he’s affianced, he goes on with the wedding. It’s his honeymoon, actually, that brings Andrea into the clinic, as he is also a pediatrician, and while he’s away the group needs a locums, and quickly finds that even when Luke comes back, they can’t live without her.

The head of the clinic, a reserved, insightful, intelligent gynecologist named Dr. Hawkins Dolan—most unfortunately, he goes by the name Hawk—is immediately attractive to Andrea, as he is able to trade quips with Andrea as readily as Luke does, but he has a confident stillness about him that she appreciates more than Luke’s boisterous crashing around. Hawk is astute enough to realize the attraction between Andrea and Luke, and gently helps steer Andrea right when she’s most in need of support, but as much as she is attracted to Hawk, he barely acts more than the friend to her.

Luke, on the other hand, is crushing her daily with his flirtations, and after one late night after they perform emergency surgery on a farm table to lift the depressed skull fracture of an 18-month-old who’s been kicked in the head by a mule, Luke pulls into an all-night truck stop to get some coffee—but finds he really needs a little sugar instead—and then it’s even more difficult for Andrea to ignore her deep love for Luke, who now wants her to run away with him, his marriage and their reputations be damned!

From this point on the book is about Andrea’s anguish about whether she should follow her passion or her morals—essentially choose between being a woman (i.e. get the man) or a doctor (i.e. give up love). It’s not tough to figure out which way the wind will blow in the end, but as a genre the VNRN is not known for its surprise endings, and frankly, the ride here is so lovely that it doesn’t matter that the end is obvious.

Andrea herself is one of the best heroines I’ve met. She’s strong and independent, sassy, puts up with no bull, and a very good doctor. Luke and Hawk also are well-drawn, their attractions and their faults depicted with nuance and sophistication. Andrea’s feelings for Luke are also completely real, not at all silly or plastic. Author Elizabeth Seifert can deftly paint a mood, describing homes or scenes that instantly and easily feel completely real. For one quick example, in an effort to shake Luke off, Andrea goes for a drive in the country: "Her hat and gloves and jacket lay on the seat beside her; the day was warm and she was grateful for the freshening air which came from the woods now that the sun was low." Maybe it’s just me, but even with that simple sentence I feel what it’s like to be in that car. The warm camaraderie of the doctors in the clinic, too, is palpable, though a lot harder to depict for you here in a quick quote. Then there’s the story’s sense of humor; this very amusing and witty book gives us lots of very enjoyable exchanges between Andrea and her two main men. To wit: One day Dr. Dolan is trying to guess why Andrea is looking so pleased. "You come into money?" he asks her—but that’s not it. "Catch you a man?" Wrong again. "Then you must have a new hat," he says, and without waiting for an answer, sails off through the OR door. We really do like that Dr. Dolan, even if he must call himself Hawk. The only flaw I can find in this book is that the last third of the book, with Andrea fighting her feelings for Luke in long inner conversations, drags a bit. Also, the binding was a bit tight so holding it up and open with one hand when reading in bed required more effort than usual. But other than that, this is one of the best sort of VNRNs, and I urge you to bear this vapidly titled book no grudge but instead put it at the top of your reading list.

No comments:

Post a Comment