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The Sweet Blue Distance Reviewed by Ekta R. Garg of Bookpleasures.com
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, Quebec
Friday, April 19, 2024


Ekta R. Garg

Reviewer Ekta Garg: Ektahas actively written and edited since 2005 for publications like: ThePortland Physician Scribe; the Portland Home BuildersAssociation home show magazines; ABCDlady; and TheBollywood Ticket. With an MSJ in magazine publishing fromNorthwestern University Ekta also maintains TheWrite Edge- a professional blog for her writing. In additionto her writing and editing, Ekta maintains her position as a“domestic engineer”—housewife—and enjoys being a mother totwo beautiful kids.

View all articles by Ekta R. Garg
Author: Sara Donati

Publisher: BerkleyPublishing Group

ISBN: 9781984805058

A nurse-midwife takes ajob in the pre-Civil War wild west to help others and escape her owntrauma. The journey challenges her to reframe what she knows of love,her sense of security, and an impending conflict that threatens totear a country apart. Author Sara Donati takes her time to buildrelationships and a plot that are well worth the wait in her latestbook The Sweet Blue Distance.

It’s 1857, and CarrieBallentyne is ready for a life change. She has a fair amount ofexperience as a nurse and midwife after living and working inManhattan, and the job advertisement posted by Dr. Sam Markham fromSanta Fe, New Mexico, is overwhelmingly appealing. Carrie has nevershied away from adventures, and she wants to get away from thememories of a personal tragedy in an otherwise happy life. 

Amid tearful farewellswith her family, Carrie and her brother, Nathan, set out on themonths-long journey from New York to the American Southwest. At thestart of their train journey, Carrie meets Eli Ibarra who is clearlyhalf Indian and half Mexican—a Mestizo. His background does nothingto deter Carrie from talking to Eli; she and Nathan grew up withcousins, aunts, and uncles all from Indian tribes, and Carrie hasalways felt at home with people of different races. 

The same can’t be saidfor everyone on the journey west, however. Conversations about warare everywhere, and opinions vary widely depending on if a personcame from a state that supports slavery or is an abolitionist. Carriedoesn’t tolerate the injustice of racism and discrimination andscandalizes more than one fellow traveler with her growing friendshipwith Eli and others from Santa Fe who clearly have no Europeanheritage in their blood.

Then comes word that thesituation in Santa Fe has become more dire. Dr. Markham’s originaladvertisement was for a nurse and midwife to join his practice but,more immediately, to attend to his wife who is expecting their secondchild. His message says Mrs. Markham’s condition has become seriousand Carrie should come as soon as possible. With the dangers oftraveling via horseback across the prairie and desert, Carrie allowsEli and some trusted men to accompany her to Santa Fe.

The relief from a safearrival is short-lived, however, when Carrie meets the Markham familyand realizes something is very wrong. Worse, Dr. Markham is dependingon Carrie to lie for his family. Initially giving her a wide berth,the women in Santa Fe soon start trusting her with their healthcareneeds. Carrie delivers their babies and listens to their complaints,all while wondering what will become of the Markhams and their littlegirl, Lulu, who has endeared herself to Carrie in a short time.

Author Sara Donati resistsany urge to rush her story along. Instead, readers get the pleasureof two adventures in one. The first is Carrie’s journey west andall the challenges a cross-country trip would have presented in themid-19th century. The second is her establishment in Santa Fe as awhite woman, one of a minority, trying to earn the trust andconfidence of a new town and its people. 

Donati’s historicalauthenticity is exquisite and grounds the book in reality; readerswill have no trouble feeling Carrie’s trepidation when she and hertraveling party come across attacking Native Americans or thechallenge of settling into a town where the summer climate can bepunishing at best. In the midst of this rich history lesson, readerswill enjoy the advancing romance between Carrie and Eli. Although itfeels inevitable, the relationship also holds its fair share ofsurprises.

Carrie’s fierceindependence and progressive views are very much of the 21st century,but Donati’s presentation of them doesn’t jar readers out of thestory world. On the contrary, Carrie comes across as a young womanwith fresh ideas for a young country finding its footing and itsidentity—something the protagonist herself is looking for. It’seasy to see her as a bright-eyed, determined woman looking forward tothe future.

Those who enjoy sweepinghistorical sagas with everything from romance to stories of the “wildwest” to the reassurance that the fight for equality has a long,rich history need to check this out. Writers would be well advised tostudy the book as a masterclass on how a slow but steady pace cankeep readers engaged from start to finish. I recommend readers BingeThe Sweet Blue Distance by Sara Donati.

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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