2016 Reviews · Australian · rural ficition

Book Review: The Doctor Calling by Meredith Appleyard

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Book blurb:

What Laura was about to do wasn’t easy. To become embroiled in a family’s turmoil, their grief, their anger, their secrets, wasn’t safe, or clever.

Rebuilding her life again after unexpected tragedy, GP Laura O’Connor flees Adelaide, and her medical career, for a quiet life in rural Potters Junction. She’s looking to escape her own family dramas. The last thing she expects is to become caught up in another’s.

Jake Finlay is a man with a troubled past and a passion for risk-taking. After years away from his small home town, he’s hell-bent on keeping his distance. But his father is dying and this could be the last chance they have to make amends.

As Laura and Jake come together over the care for the frail man, they experience an irresistible attraction. Will facing death help them both to grab hold of life? And might love be just what the doctor ordered?
5 stars

After I read The Country Practice, the debut novel by Meredith Appleyard last year, I immediately knew that this author would be on my list of favourite Australian authors. The Doctor Calling is Meredith Appleyard’s second novel and it is just as good as her first novel.

Medical based rural romance is the flavour of Meredith Appleyard appealing novels. I was overjoyed to discover that once I opened The Doctor Calling, I found that it was set in the same area, the South Australian country town of Potters Junction, as Appleyard’s first novel. I was even given a further treat, when the main character of The Country Practice, Meghan Kimble, appeared briefly in this novel too. It was like catching up with an old friend, a tone that I love and thank Meredith Appleyard for including in her second novel. The Doctor Calling is a novel that is again centred on a female doctor, this time it is a woman named Laura O’Connor. Laura turns to the town of Potters Junction as a source of solace, hoping to remain incognito as she takes leave for a bout of anxiety she suffered from during her work in a busy city based general practice. After inheriting her great aunt’s quaint cottage in country based Potters Junction, Laura decides it is time to rest, recuperate and slowly renovate the cottage. Laura quickly realises it is hard to remain anonymous in Potter’s Junction, she soon befriends her elderly neighbour Neill and his wayward son Jake. When Neill discloses to Laura he is dying from cancer, Laura steps in to lend a hand. While tending to Neill, Laura also provides assistance to the town of Potter’s Junction, who are in desperate need of a locum doctor, while their long standing doctor Milt Burns takes an urgent leave of absence. Laura soon becomes a part of the fabric of Potters Junction, but her ties to the city and the heartbreak she holds may tear her away from her new home.

I tend to turn to the comforting arms of Australian rural romance when I have had a heavy week and The Doctor Calling did just that. One of the side storylines of the novel, involving the palliative care of a cancer patient struck a chord with me emotionally. Recently, a family member passed away after a battle with cancer and The Doctor Calling provided me with some solace, as the parallels drawn from the book’s storyline often mirrored our personal lives in recent times. Personal feelings aside, The Doctor Calling is a heart-warming and appealing rural romance novel, that has an emphasis on medical themes. Main protagonist Laura is a woman whom my heart just broke for, she is surrounded by sadness, grief and personal anxiety but her journey to recovery is admirable. Laura shares a gentle romance with Jake, her neighbour’s son. This is a romance that is fraught with complications and baggage on both sides, so it is a slow burn rather than hot and heavy romance, which suited the tone of the book. Appleyard writes with a warm, engaging manner, she also manages to get to the very heart and minds of the characters that feature in her books. It was nice to be reminded of how much I love her prose, after reading her first book last year. There are some hard hitting themes in this novel, from grief, loss, terminal illness/care, separation and single parenting, all of which are treated with a great deal of sensitivity by Appleyard. Medical issues are also the forefront of this novel and Appleyard makes her reader aware of the complexities of receiving medical care in rural areas. Finally, I must mention the setting in this novel, which was painted with tender love and care, showing the reader the quaint country lifestyle that exists in rural South Australia.

A combination of heartbreaking and feel good, The Doctor Calling is another engrossing medical crossed with rural romance read from an author I have come to enjoy very much.

The Doctor Calling was published in 2016 by Penguin Books Australia https://penguin.com.au/books/the-doctor-calling-9780143797173


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