From a private collection of nearly 800 courtship letters, the daughter of two remarkable physicians has crafted a timeless valentine to long-lasting love and the healing profession. Senior medical students from New Orleans and Omaha meet in 1937 and begin a two-year correspondence across 1,100 miles. They set their sights on a return to Mayo Clinic, the medical mecca where they found each other and danced to the haunting “Harbor Lights”. Grave illness and career setbacks shake their confidence, but the two decide to face an uncertain future together, trusting in each other and the relationship they built letter by letter. The Courtship of Two Doctors recreates the medical era before antibiotics, when health workers were at risk of serious infection, and vividly illustrates the 1930s social barriers challenging two-career marriages.
What I Thought:
What a charming and fitting tribute to her parents Martha Holoubek Fitzgerald has created! I notice from reading some reviews that other readers found this book a little slow, as it is a collection of private correspondence between two people in love, and they express it at every opportunity. I found this, and the naivete of the letters, to be somewhat of a relic of another era and it was a really sweet book to read.
Aside from the relationship between Joe Holoubek and Alice Baker, their letters are a fantastic window for medical historians on a time that we really should be thankful is gone by – Joe at one point is put on an isolation ward for several weeks as he has Scarlet Fever, a condition that my sons have had, and that was cleared up by a course of antibiotics. Alice’s life and career is also put under threat by TB – a disease we can easily treat in the modern era.
Although Alice and Joe had no idea that their letters might be used in this way at some future date, they write informative letters about cases they think will interest each other, and it’s also very clear how much they come to love each other, something that is also reinforced by the postscript.
The collection is lovingly collated by the pair’s youngest daughter, Martha, and as such you can really get a feel for Joe and Alice, and the care that Martha has taken to capture the essence of her parents. It’s really very well done.
The Courtship of Two Doctors is published by Little Dove Press.
I received a copy of this title through Netgalley, in return for an honest review.