Under the shadow of San Francisco’s growing Golden Gate Bridge, a girl yearns to become a physician.
It’s 1936. Eighteen-year-old Wilhelmina MacCarthy is expected to spend the months between high school graduation and her entry into a Catholic convent learning to sew and volunteering at a soup kitchen. But when her older brother Paddy is injured, Willa discovers that their old doctor has retired and a woman, Dr. Winston, is practicing in his place. Willa’s been reading medical books in secret, and before long, she’s sneaking out to help Dr. Winston at her office, a field hospital near the bridge construction site, and a Hooverville camp. She develops feelings for Sam, a young ironworker, while endlessly pondering whether she dare follow her dreams. In her author’s note, Trueblood (Nothing but Sky, 2018, etc.) writes of being inspired by both the Golden Gate Bridge itself and by an actual female physician who practiced nearby. Unfortunately, her novel fails to inspire. Stereotypical views of Irish immigrants, Catholicism, and medicine combined with cringeworthy dialogue don’t help, but the biggest weakness in the story is Willa’s milquetoast characterization. While everyone around her smooths obstacles out of her way, she dithers for hundreds of pages while performing basic first aid to applause. The romance feels forced and the ending, melodramatic. All characters are white.
The interesting setting doesn’t provide nearly enough reason to keep reading. (author’s note, sources) (Historical fiction. 13-18)