While reading Call the Nurse by Mary J. MacLeod, I was reminded that there's no "right" way to write a memoir. Writers reveal themselves via so many little clues: the language they use; the varying levels of personal detail; the amount of care spent describing the scenery, or the history, or the people. The author's clues all work together to create a vision as unique as a fingerprint.
MacLeod's snapshot is of a period of her life when she and her family, wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of life in southern England in the 1970s, took a holiday to "Papavray," the small island in Scotland's Hebrides Islands where her husband's grandfather had been born. After a brief stay, the family decided that island life was just the change they were looking for and bought a dilapidated croft house and a "small acre" of land.
MacLeod, a trained nurse, quickly gets a job assisting the island doctor, fondly known as Dr. Mac. What follows is a collection of short chapters recording her experiences tending to the people of Papavray and the outlying islands, as well as a record of island happenings.
The author gives a balanced, believable look into her new life, never taking the easy way out by making fun of the locals, or trying to romanticize life on these rough patches of land. In story after story, the islanders come to each other's aid as a matter of habit, displaying a fierce independence that sometimes leads to tragedy.
MacLeod is currently working on a second book, which I look forward to reading. She definitely has a knack for using vivid language to describe a landscape and for writing dialogue. She displays the decorum you would expect of an Englishwoman in her eighties, but also the clear-eyed frankness and compassion of the nurse she was for so many years. It was lovely to spend a bit of time with her, learning about a place and way of life that were both challenging and wildly beautiful.
Mary J. MacLeod trained as a nurse in her native England has lived in many parts of the world, including the U.S., Sweden and Saudi Arabia. Now in her eighties, this mother of four lives in Cornwall, England and decided it was time to write her first book. She is already at work on her second. Visit her FaceBook page.
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