CANAL TOWN by Samuel Hopkins Adams


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This is Samuel Adams' most important book since Gorgeous Russy. It is a good yarn, and makes a real contribution to certain phases of our country's growth:- specifically, the period and regional background for the building of the Eric Canal, and the uphill struggle of medical science against superstition. But the story culminates in an oddity of medical history, a case of lithopedion (foetus turned to stone within the body of the mother) and a churchyard autopsy that will be horrifying and unpalatable to many readers....Horace Amlie, budding medico, settles on Palmyra, New York, for his field of practice. He has hard sledding against the established practice of the older doctor, a man who accepts at face value everyone of the fetishes of the outmoded medical science of his school days. Amlie makes himself still further unpopular by protesting against the sanitary conditions in the town, which he claims are responsible for the plagues that sweep the camps of workers on the new canal project. This hits the high mogul of the town in his vulnerable spot, his purse, and he fights Amlie. The people of the bottom lands, the country folk, the poor citizens support him -- and Dinty and her chum Wealthy organise a campaign to help him. Eventually, Dinty grows up enough to marry him, despite opposition; while Wealthy falls more deeply in love with a riverboat captain, by whom she becomes pregnant. Her father, Mr. Lathan, already disliking Amlie's reforming spirit, forbids him the house, and deliberately sets out to ruin him. And it is to meet this situation and justify himself and his profession that Amlie, fortified by his preceptor from Rochester, raids the churchyard, and secures his evidence. One could wish -- as one reader said --that Mr. Adams had left this stone unturned. Otherwise first rate reading.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1944
Publisher: Random House