Where the Light Enters: A Novel. Sara Donati. Penguin Publishing Group. September 2019. hb, 672 pp.; ISBN: 9780425271827.
Dr. Sophie Savard and Dr. Anna Savard, Sophie’s cousin and best friend, want to start a medical school and hospital for disadvantaged women in the 1800s. Both doctors are women of color and have had their past experiences of prejudice and suspicion. Now, Dr. Sophie’s husband has died of tuberculosis in Europe and she has returned to New York. She’s had plenty of condolences and her own memories in grief to now process. But activities in the city quickly garner her interest and involvement.
A number of deaths have occurred to women who were pregnant, went to a criminal doctor who punished them with surgery, infection and eventual death. But now that doctor is gone and there are still problems. The wife of a reputable banker has disappeared and another woman is found dead by very suspicious wounds which lead the investigators to believe the same type of murder has again occurred. Dr. Anna’s husband, Detective-Sergeant Jack Mezzanotte, asks the cousins to consult on the investigation. They agree to consult and gradually the story unfolds to show who the captors or kidnappers are and who has once again murdered.
This is a tough and tender story that will grip every reader who is interested in both medicine and crime. The main characters are financially well-settled but still have enormous compassion for women who seek criminal doctors hoping to end pregnancies or illness. Women who are mistreated have multiple reasons to seek illicit treatment and the Savard doctors believe education and compassion will change the horrific nature of these losses. This is a timely subject as the nation is coping with the possibility of abortions becoming illegal as it was fifty years ago and earlier. It is not too hard to realize that these dark days could become reality again and that there are even now numerous women, both health care professionals and regular women, who seriously are concerned about this issue. Dr. Anna and her husband Jack, as well as Dr. Sophie stand for the protection of women’s rights. This would be an excellent novel to use in a book club or to share in other contemporary issue discussions.
The topic is obviously well-research and is presented with all sides of the issues covered. Sara Donati is a highly-skilled, creative and talented writer. This, her latest novel, is highly recommended historical fiction!!! Enjoy the read!