Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Book Review: Something Worth Doing, by Jane Kirkpatrick

 My final book review of 2020!

I'm actually just finishing my final read of the year, so stay tuned:
in the next day or two I'll share my full 2020 Reading List. It's been a great year of reading!

I was excited when I saw Something Worth Doing on my list of potential review books. Jane Kirkpatrick has novelized the life of Abigail Scott Duniway - an early American suffragist. 

I love reading about life in the 1800's, especially when it explores women who either fought within or pushed against their very rigid roles. Something Worth Doing explores life in the western United States - a world of pioneers, family farms, and growing towns and cities. For those of us who read a lot of Victorian literature, this was a very different take on this era, and a fascinating world to explore.

Kirkpatrick has thoroughly researched her subject matter, both in terms of character, politics, and setting. Even though written in a novel form, there were times the book took on the feeling of an extraordinarily detailed essay, and that's where my concerns with the book developed. 

There are tremendous details about Abigail's family members - all her siblings, nieces, and nephews - and swaths of information about the family's home life. I would have liked some of those details sacrificed so we could learn more about Abigail's work and passion for the suffragette movement. Don't get me wrong - these things are explained, but I felt I came away knowing more about Abigail's domestic life than her fight for women's rights.

And then, we actually come to the real problem: Abigail herself. As portrayed in this book, Abigail is a pretty unlikable character. Given Kirkpatrick's extensive research, I have to believe her portrayal is accurate. I have no problem with an unlikable heroine, but at some point, a skilled storyteller always gives us a reason to empathize with such a heroine, such as through a broken past or a moment of redemption. We have no such moment with Abigail. 

She's heartless to her saint of a husband, abandons her dying daughter, and - even with lots of personal tragedy - is completely unsympathetic. I thought it might just be me, but a quick scan of reviews told me I wasn't the only one having this reaction.

I understand if Kirkpatrick wants to be historically accurate in her portrayal, but it does make it a much harder book to finish and enjoy.

So, I never like giving a middling review, but I can't give all my love to this one. 

If you're looking for a well researched book on an influential early American suffragist, with great details on domestic life of the era, Something Worth Doing is a great book to read.

If you're looking for a heroine to inspire you, a detailed look at the suffragist movement, and a real exploration of what it takes to choose passion over expectation, I would recommend looking elsewhere.  

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

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