cover image The Heart Specialist

The Heart Specialist

Claire Holden Rothman. Soho, $25 (304p) ISBN 978-1-56947-945-2

Rothman, the author of two story collections (Salad Days and Black Tulips), movingly depicts the life and career of Agnes White, inspired by real-life doctor Maude Abbott (1869%E2%80%93%C2%AD%C2%AD1940), one of Canada's first female doctors, in her brilliant first novel. When Agnes Bourret is four years old, her father, an eminent Montreal physician who teaches at McGill University, abandons his family in the wake of a scandal and disappears. Agnes is adopted by her grandmother, who changes her last name to White. In thrall to her father's memory, Agnes later turns to Dr. William Howlett, who becomes her mentor, as her father was once Howlett's. After entering medical school in 1890, Agnes earns her M.D., but finds little acceptance among her male colleagues. Agnes's heroic journey takes her through the cataclysmic events of WWI and the 1918 influenza outbreak, which ironically opens greater opportunities for her. Rothman's heartbreaking portrait of this trailblazer will long linger with the reader. (June)