Lisa Says… Read This Book for July 2011

By Lisa Hamilton

Doc, by Mary Doria Russell
by Mary Doria Russell

Mary Doria Russell is the author of a favorite book of mine titled The Sparrow. It is a religious, science fiction-type novel that explores the Jesuit Society traveling in space to pursue and learn about the frontiers of exploration. Jesuits universally never went anywhere to proselytize, they only explored so they may come to know all God’s children. Hence, what a surprise to learn of Ms. Russell’s new novel about John Henry Holliday and the Wild West. Many men read Sasee (and I know they do because they talk to me about the reviews and articles), and they may enjoy the gambling and the gunfights, but there is much more to this novel than the story of a cowboy.

John Henry Holliday was born to the South Carolina McKeys, the third child of eleven. His family took him to Georgia where he came into the world with a cleft palate and was almost dismissed to the grave. Mary Alice McKey Holliday was an educated, well bred woman who refused to give up on her child. Her brother in law was a dentist who promised he could save this child, and he did. This uncle was not only a savior but a lifelong mentor and guide. As J.J.H. grew and progressed, he followed in his uncle’s footsteps as a dentist and a devoted son who lived a good, young life. Sadly, John Henry’s mother contracted tuberculosis and passed it onto her son before she died when he was a very young man.

To preserve his health, John Henry Holliday set out to live the rest of his life in dryer air with less humidity than the beautiful South that he loved. He headed west to Texas, without a means to practice dentistry but a resolve to survive and succeed in any way possible. J.H.H., aka Doc, learned to fend for himself, gamble and count cards, and quickly rose to fame and fortune, even as his health struggled. His partner in life was a prostitute he never married, but spent most of his good years with when he settled in Dodge City. As Doc unfolds, the reader is taken back in time and given a feel for life as our country grew and settled. It was a hard time for most, but they survived by hard work, strong will and determination. This novel definitely gets a tip of the hat.

About this writer

  • Lisa Hamilton A native South Carolinian, Lisa Hamilton is the director of the First Presbyterian Church Preschool and Kindergarten. Of course she loves reading, but also finds time for cooking and walking her dog, Hurley.

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