THE CALL OF ELLA MCFARLAND
by Linda Brooks Davis
PB, 376 pages, $14.99
Farm dweller and aspiring schoolteacher Ella McFarland finds her life taking a different turn when a needy neighborhood girl, Lily, comes under her care. After much soul-searching and prayer, Ella gives up her dream of teaching at a prestigious school and decides to start her own school for disadvantaged girls. But she must contend not only with her own family’s expectations of a woman’s place, but also with Frank, an unhappy figure from her past, and Walter, Lily’s abusive father. Along the way, she finds herself at odds with her spoiled younger sister, Viola, and struggles to balance her vocational call with a growing attraction to a handsome admirer.
Davis’ dialogue and historical setting are fairly authentic, and her meaty descriptions give the reader a good sense of place, time and detail. However, sentences are so weighed down with adjectives, adverbs, modifiers and extraneous anecdotes that sometimes there’s too much detail. The content is clean, though there is a general description of an attempted rape, and several incidents of physical abuse and drunkenness. Davis’ work is filled with heartfelt prayer and references to Scripture, but the characters’ tidy “sanitized” Christianity may fail to ring true to readers. Characters are adequately well rounded, but beware of a rather clichéd love interest and a cheesy romance that takes place. Near the end, certain characters’ changes of heart seem too sudden and straightforward to be credible.
Katherine Hiegel of Mundelein, Illinois is a professional writing major at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.