Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mary on Horseback

I was initially excited about this book, another SonLight recommendation.  But, it turned out to not be so exciting.  It's Mary on Horseback by Rosemary Wells.  It is the first biography we have read, which was kind of interesting for the girls.  It's the story of Mary Breckenridge, a nurse who founded the Frontier Nursing Service, which provided nursing services on horseback to people in the Appalachian Mountains.
The book, like all the books we read, encouraged some interesting discussions.  We talked about what life was like in the mountains, with no roads, no electricity, no telephone.  One of the first stories is about a young child who has a fever.  We talked about how we are so blessed to be able to get in the car and go straight to a hospital to get Catherine medical care when she has a fever.  We talked about how some people are not able to do that.

Another story is about Pa, who has a broken leg.  Initially, his family thinks they will have to amputate his leg.  My girls had never heard of amputation, so this was new to them.  Fortunately, "Nurse Mary" was able to repair and save his leg.

The second chapter was about inoculation: a big word my kids had never heard.  I love when they stop me while I am reading and ask me what certain words mean!!  Apparently the state of Kentucky gave the Frontier Nursing Service a certain amount of vaccines for diphtheria.  The nurses traveled, on horseback, from cabin to cabin and had to convince people to allow themselves and their children to be inoculated.

The last chapter was more realistic than my 7 year old and 4 year old needed.  It was written from the perspective of a child whose mother died giving birth to twins.  The father gives her and the twins to some nurses (in the Frontier Nursing Service) to raise.  This was a sad story and many people may not think it is age appropriate.  But, we have actually discussed illness and death many times in our house, so my kids were not traumatized by this chapter.  Still, I was surprised at this "plot twist."

The book is very short, only 48 pages.  We were able to read it in two short sessions.  It introduced us to another way of life: the poverty of isolated Appalachia.  The topic of severely limited medical care was a whole new paradigm shift for Catherine.  I have always known how blessed we are to have ready access to medical care.  But, Catherine has not been exposed to anything other than living 30 minutes from Scottish Rite and Egleston.  She was shocked to learn that there are people that have to travel two days on horseback to get to a doctor's office!

The girls were even shocked to think of life without electricity, telephones, etc.

Despite the benefits of introducing us to some new concepts, I am not sure I would recommend this book.  The stories are very cursory, so you do not get to know any of the characters or really understand what is happening to them. The book does not really describe a lot about the Frontier Nursing Service, just glossing over its creation and growth.

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