4 out of 4 stars
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Country life is the only way of living Clara Tyler has ever known. She is a nurse who is dedicated to her patients and lives on a farm in Ohio with her parents. Her life seems to be headed in a predictable direction—Clara is engaged to her childhood friend, Jasper—when her older brother, Samuel, reaches out to ask for her help. She has to leave everything and everyone she knows to meet up with Samuel in Panama, where he has answered President Roosevelt's call for engineers to build the Panama Canal.
With her faith in God firmly intact, Clara sets out on an arduous journey to meet her brother. Not long after she arrives, Clara realizes Panama isn't as rosy as her brother has described it. Meanwhile, she meets Samuel unwell and down with pneumonia, an ailment he doesn't survive. Clara soon falls ill with yellow fever but survives the ordeal and consequently decides to stay. Her time in Panama sees her come across many people—like Jessie, Amelia, Elijah, and Doctor Gorgas—who contribute significantly to her Panama experience. Her time in Panama will test her resolve, sanity, love life, and faith. How does Clara navigate her time in Panama? How does her decision to stay back in Panama affect everything and everyone back at home? How is Clara affected by the people she meets in Panama? Does she ever go back home?
Clara's Way by Roberta R. Carr was written from Clara's perspective. This was an adequately detailed story. I like how Carr fleshed out Clara's journey. It was enjoyable reading about the sacrifices she had to make for her brother and her consequent exposure to an entirely new world in Panama. Clara's experiences were full of highs and lows, and the author's writing conveyed the emotions in these moments. Clara's character was inspiring. She was resolute, strong, and brave, but she was also selfless and kind. These traits could be seen through her experiences. Some of them include how she tended to her brother and still had the strength of mind to carry on after he passed, how she triumphed over a severe bout of yellow fever, and how she stayed back in Panama to bring into effect policies to deal with the yellow fever epidemic. It's genuinely remarkable whenever I read a story with a brave and inspiring heroine, especially when the odds are firmly against her. Besides Clara, I also loved Amelia's character; her free-spirited nature endeared her to me, and her connection with Clara was one of the highlights of my reading.
It was intriguing to observe Clara as she dealt with a difficult situation that brought her love life into sharp contention with her faith. Although she didn't go to church regularly in Panama, she never wavered from her faith, which is why this disagreement between her spirituality and her love life was particularly interesting, in my opinion. I applaud Carr for how she intertwined these two elements in a way that didn't disrespect either of them but simply reflected the era in which this story was set.
Apart from the excitement of Clara's journey, this story was tied to reality in how it incorporated the building of the Panama Canal. I think it's a neat trick whenever a work of fiction includes aspects of our real life and history. I appreciated the book more because of this; it showed that Carr took the time to do her research before penning this tale.
I didn't find any dislikes in this book. Clara's story was exciting, relatable, and evoked reactions on different ends of the emotional spectrum. It was also professionally edited—I found only two grammatical errors. Consequently, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. If you're like me and you love a tale with historical elements and a heroine in a male-dominated era, this book is perfect for you.
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