The Sweet Blue Distance

The Sweet Blue Distance, another immersive historical novel from Sara Donati, explores midwifery, mental illness, racial dynamics, and romance in 1857 New Mexico. Connecting her six-book Wilderness series and her Waverly Place series, Donati's narrative follows nurse-midwife Carrie Ballentyne as she travels across the country from Manhattan to Santa Fe and navigates unfamiliar languages, relationships, and challenges in her new home.  

Donati (Where the Light Enters) begins with correspondence and Carrie's travel diary. Carrie, accompanied by her brother, Nathan, sets out to work as nurse-assistant to Dr. Sam Markham and midwife to his wife, Indira. On the train west, they encounter the Ibarra brothers, of mixed Pueblo and Basque descent. Eli, the eldest, will play a pivotal role in Carrie's life. The journey continues via stagecoach and (eventually) on horseback. Carrie's skill, endurance, and doeskin leggings raise eyebrows in equal measure.

Through Carrie's keen, intelligent eyes, Donati draws a richly detailed portrait of the American frontier in the years before the Civil War. Santa Fe is a young, bustling town of diverse (sometimes clashing) racial and religious groups. Carrie must confront tricky social dynamics while learning new languages and habits. Her employers, the Markhams, prove difficult in unexpected ways and, though she makes friends in the community, Carrie must use all her medical skill and emotional resilience to meet the challenges of her new life.

Layered, absorbing, and peopled with complex, fascinating characters, The Sweet Blue Distance is a captivating portrayal of one woman's inner journey set against the vast backdrop of the rapidly changing American West. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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