The Unlocked Path
by Janis Robinson Daly
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Pub Date 25 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 30 Sep 2022
Darcie Rowan PR, Black Rose Writing
#1 New Release on Amazon
A “New Woman” of the Early 20th Century Battles Sexism & Self-Doubt for a Career in Medicine in Bold Debut Historical Novel
The Unlocked Path
by Janis Robinson Daly
Daly develops Eliza’s family ties and show her passion for social change through her career choices and her opinions …. A work that effectively showcases the power of love, friendship, and faith – both in one’s calling and in oneself – to create change in the world – Kirkus Reviews
In the debut novel, The Unlocked Path by Janis Robinson Daly, readers meet a “New Woman” of the early 20th century: educated, career-minded, independent Eliza Edwards. In 1897 Philadelphia, after witnessing her aunt's suicide, Eliza rejects her mother’s wishes for a society debut, and at a time when five percent of doctors are female, she enters the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. With the support of a circle of women and driven by a determination to conquer curriculum demands, battle sexism, and overcome doubts, Eliza charts her new life course. Combining science and sympathy, she triumphs to heal others and herself.
Organic Chemistry may slay her, if the strain of endless study, odoriferous labs, and gruesome surgeries don’t claim her first. As a young intern, she summons a forthright confidence asserting her abilities to those mistrustful of a woman doctor. Through her work with poverty-stricken patients, she defines her version of suffrage work to champion women’s rights for and beyond the right to vote. Love is found, love is lost. During a visit to the fairy-tale-like city of Newport, a new relationship may fulfill her desires. When global events devolve into chaos with the 1918 influenza pandemic and a world war, Eliza renews her vow to help and heal.
About Janis Robinson Daly:
Intrigued by the discovery that an ancestor was a founder of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Janis Robinson Daly found her next career path: unearthing the stories of women whose lives have remained in the shadows. A graduate of Wheaton College, MA, with a B.A. in Psychology, Daly explores female-centric issues and the power of supportive relationships developed among women. Daly, her husband, and their rescue pup have embraced a nomad life, thanks to an empty nest and access to WiFi. From New Hampshire to Cape Cod to Florida, she squeezes in stops along the way to find other women’s stories which need to be told, balancing authenticity and fictional flair to give readers a deeper, more emotional connection than what biographies offer. Daly’s followers on Facebook, Instagram and her blog, look to her for recommendations as she shares her love of women’s historical fiction with others. She’s involved with several book clubs as both a member and moderator, lending her expertise in selecting books which prompt insightful and engaging discussions. Janis is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Historical Novel Society, and the Cape Cod Writers Center. Both the eBook and paperback debuted on Amazon Bestseller List during week of publication.
A Note From the Publisher
Besides breaking to use the ladies’ room twice and to nibble on two Lorna Doones a nurse shared with her, Eliza’s day blurred into a catatonic haze. She could scarcely remember a single name of the men she attended, nor the eight whose names she penned onto death certificates and toe tags. Since leaving West Philadelphia, she could recall at least twenty-five women and most of their babies, too. If she remembered the soldiers’ names, would they live? Did blocking their names erase their existence?
Eliza checked her watch while she sat outside Dr. Vaughan’s office. 6:50 p.m. The summer sky remained bright outside with the Daylight-Saving Law passed in March. Yet, the narrow windows denied the sunlight. Darkness prevailed.
Starting in her heart, fatigue claimed her body. A throb in her temples spread to a twitch in her fingers. Eliza knew exhaustion on a first-name basis. Over her career, it visited her often, made itself at home and settled into her bones. But this debilitation consumed her unlike any other time. Her life classified fatigue into physical or emotional. Exam study, double shifts at the hospital, and looking after two energetic sons required physical exertion. The heartbreak of losing Patrick, cradling a dying patient’s hand, dealing with Harrison’s volatility, or concern over her children’s health drove emotional exhaustion. Here, she fought a simultaneous battle. Hour after hour she tended to patients. She lifted their limbs, walked the rows in an endless loop like Will’s train set, and carried trays of water and salves. Her arms and legs numbed. Men died; not one, not two, but eight over the course of nine hours. The enormity of it drained every fiber of her verve. A helpless anguish seized control.
Both the eBook and paperback debuted on Amazon Bestseller List during week of publication.
"Eliza, a young woman in turn of the century Philadelphia, faces a life-changing choice. Her mother’s path: a debutante ball followed by marriage, children, and acceptance into Main Line society, a career in law or charity like her spinster aunts, or the most difficult path, attend the Women’s Medical School her grandfather had helped establish. Choosing medicine, Eliza embarks on a stunning career mostly focused on women’s health, at a time when only five percent of doctors were women. From tending to victims of botched abortions to soldiers dying from the Spanish flu, Eliza sees the best and worst of humanity, but never falters from her mission to limit suffering and save lives. It’s a story of the ties of family, and friends and colleagues who become family. It’s about love and loss, and the eternal struggle to live one’s best life. Fans of literary medical historical fiction such as Abraham Verghese’s Cutting For Stone or The Girl In His Shadow by Audrey Blake will enjoy the rich period detail and emotional impact of The Unlocked Path." –Tracey Enerson Wood, Author of International Best Seller The Engineer’s Wife
"A young woman defies societal norms in her personal life and career in Daly’s debut historical novel set in 1897 Philadelphia. Eighteen-year-old Eliza Edwards comes from a family of passionate dreamers. She sees her aunts Estelle, Florence, and Josephine—in their respective careers as a stenographer, art teacher, and secretary and board trustee—as role models and struggles to accept a seemingly fated future as a housewife and mother as her debut in society approaches. After a field trip with Josephine to the library at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Eliza meets medical student Anandi Gopal Joshi and finds the missing piece in her heart: 'The students at Woman’s Med. have forged their own paths. I wish to do the same.' After completing med school, Eliza accepts a position at the West Philadelphia Hospital alongside Dr. Patrick Callaghan, her former professor. As love blooms between them, Eliza balances her responsibilities to her career and to her family. After a devastating event, she takes a trip to Boston to visit her brothers and their loved ones and finds that a new life awaits her there. She must make difficult choices as she fights for her family, her vocation, and her lifelong dreams. Daly presents a well-researched story that weaves the fictional details of Eliza’s life with major, real-life historical events. Her careful crafting of each character, and her detailed, old-fashioned setting of each scene, encourages readers to root themselves in the moment, and as a result, they’ll feel emotionally invested in the protagonist’s every sadness and joy. Daly also develops Eliza’s family ties and shows her passion for social change through her career choices and her opinions, which have a strong feminist element. It results in a work that effectively showcases the power of love, friendship, and faith—both in one’s calling and in oneself—to create change in the world. An often-riveting fictional testament of a doctor’s life at the turn of the 20th century." –Kirkus Reviews
"In The Unlocked Path, Janis Robinson Daly movingly depicts the monumental struggles early women physicians faced, and the much-needed niche they filled. Meticulously researching a fascinating era in our history and creating an engaging narrator to guide us through it, Janis Robinson Daly has delivered a winner." –Sally Cabot Gunning, Author of The Widow’s War and Painting the Light
"The Unlocked Path follows the extraordinary life of a courageous woman, Eliza Pearson Edwards. Based on Janis Daly’s exhaustive research into the country’s first women doctors, historical events of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and her own ancestral lineage, the reader is treated to Eliza’s eventful life story. From a wide-eyed girl declining her social debut, through her grueling training as a rare female medical student, to life as a vital doctor to women in need, Eliza’s personal and professional journey is both unique and yet consistent with the tenor of the times. Daly’s care in telling a story bursting with historical detail is evident in every page." –Juliette Fay, USA Today bestselling author of The Tumbling Turner Sisters and the recent highly acclaimed, Catch Us When We Fall
"A story of resilience, empowerment, and coming of age. I felt an indescribable connection to this young woman physician, not just in name, but because her journey and discovery of “the why” echoes a story that we all carry in our hearts. Great historical fiction is timeless." –Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH, Executive Director, American Medical Women's Association and editor, This Side of Doctoring: Reflections from Women in Medicine
"Eliza Edwards chooses an unconventional path. Choosing to ignore high society and commit herself to medical school, she must possess an unwavering belief in herself. She decides that to succeed, she must change the system. Eliza will win you over with her quiet strength and kind heart." –Kerry Chaput, Amazon bestselling author of Daughter of the King
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Average rating from 33 members
There’s something so satisfying in reading about our female forebears. Women who followed an internal urging to take a different path than society dictated and so laid a pathway for an entire future movement. Today, the majority of med students are female, but 100 years ago female doctors were scarce. THE UNLOCKED PATH’S protagonist, Eliza Edwards, pulls us into this turbulent 20th c period with all of its doubts, risks, brave friendships, and newfound friction between career and marriage/motherhood for women. The cast of carefully chosen secondary characters each represent a New Woman’s pioneering attitude at the time. Author Daly’s extensive research, delicately laced through each scene, does an exceptional job of bringing the historical period to vibrant life. But what will stay with me most about this story is reflected in the book’s dedication to the author’s grandmother— “I never knew your full story, so I created one”— it wasn’t that long ago that the world was very different for women. So many of the small courageous acts in living lives against society’s grain have been forgotten. THE UNLOCKED PATH gives us a chance to remember and marvel.
The Unlocked Path, is a gift to historical fiction readers. Daly’s extensive research brings a story and characters so vivid and well-drawn, I felt as if I was reading a beautiful piece of non-fiction. She deftly brings in historical elements and sets the reader’s feet firmly into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I enjoyed every moment with Eliza, Laura, and all the other wonderful characters.
I just devoured this book in 2 days! What a wonderful story about a strong, determined woman who is not afraid to follow her dreams! At a time in history when women were expected to marry and have children, Eliza chose to become a doctor. This story details her experiences and achievements. The story is brought to life with well developed characters. I cried, I laughed, and cheered while reading this book. The writing is superb and I was immersed in the world Janis brought to life!
I highly recommend to this story! If you love reading about strong women, historical fiction and love well written books, this story will not disappoint!
I received this boom as an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
"The Unlocked Path" is an extraordinary work of historical fiction that began with the author’s genealogy research. What an incredible discovery to learn that her great-great-great grandfather, William S. Peirce, Esquire, was part founder of the first accredited medical school for women in the United States. Correlative meticulous research, an interest in social history, and creativity led Janis Robinson Daly to write a fascinating portrayal of Eliza Edwards and her family from May 1897 – August 1920. Within this family saga is the coming of age story of Eliza and fellow classmates at The Women’s Medical College (WMC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
I was engrossed in Eliza’s contemplation that there might be more possibilities to pursue in her future than a debut ball, a society wedding and marriage, social gatherings, and children. Most of all, it was endearing that in the midst of challenges, long hours of training and study there were heartwarming interactions of encouragement and support between the classmates that led some to become life-long friends.
From the women’s first classes, labs, practical training and ward experiences to highlighting professors and mentors to their purposes for choosing the medical profession over family expectations of marriage and socioeconomic norms and roles the pioneering spirit of women in this time period is aspirational and inspirational to read. It is a comprehensive and genuine look lifting the curtain of history and providing a captivating in-depth view through storytelling to the vital beginning of female physicians. In following the footsteps of Eliza and her classmates I was able to absorb the strength of their commitment, the courage behind their dedication, and their unrelenting persistence. To add to the authenticity of the novel three of the characters of Eliza’s graduating class are based on graduates of WMC sharing the diversity of social classes, family backgrounds, educational and life experiences.
Many authors add back matter at the end of the novel. I was amazed and elated that Janis Robinson Daly didn’t simply choose one or two features for readers. Instead, the author took the same care and thoughtful approach as she did to writing the novel to provide every feature of follow-up that I could possibly request as a reader sharing "Author’s Note," "Reading Group Guide," "Acknowledgements," "Resources," and "About the Author." Particularly in historical fiction, I find "The Author’s Note" not only enhances the reading experience but clarifies the lines between history and an author’s creativity and I was absorbed in this entry. The "Reading Group Guide" is not only a thoughtful provision for book club discussion but for a reader’s own reflection. In "Resources" the author motivates the reader to explore more information on early women in medicine and additional history of WMC with suggestions of books, exhibitions, and documentaries.
My sincere thanks to Janis Robinson Daly, and Black Rose Writing for my complimentary digital copy of this title, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.
This was Janis Robinson Daly's debut novel. I have found a new historical fiction author!! The book is based in Philadelphia during the late 1800's and early 1900's. Eliza Edwards is our main character and she is at the crossroads of her young life. Through a family occurrence she decides that being a debutant is not for her. She decides to carve out a career in medicine joining the 5% female doctors in her pursuit. Eliza attends medical school and becomes a doctor. We see her life develop apart from medicine and this creates an unforgetable and likeable character for the reader.
Daly touches on life in Philadelphia. The book also give us a look into medicine at this time period and the developments during this period and the conditions the doctors dealt with. Also, some world events are touched on which adds a frame of reference to the story.
The writing in the book enables the reader to see all in the characters, scenes and every aspect clearly. It is descriptive without losing the storyline. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a wonderful read that is hard to put down.
This book is relevant with today’s news. It takes place more than 100 years ago, yet it resonates with women’s rights at this time.
In 1897, Eliza Edwards was connected to strong independent thinkers in her family and a group of friends that opened her mind to possibilities with her life goals. Most women were in the business of finding a husband and taking great care of their choice of clothes, hair style and presentation. Eliza wanted more. The Medical College of Pennsylvania was founded by her grandfather and that’s the direction that she wanted to take with the goal of becoming a medical doctor. Her mother was concerned about finances, her qualifications with intense exams and the potential of finding a husband who may be intimated by her intellect. However, she became supportive and proud. In 1901, Eliza graduated with the class at the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia.
Dr. Eliza Edwards was encouraged by Dr. Patrick Callaghan to work under his supervision at a local maternity hospital. She ended up falling in love with him. Yet, there was a conflict. He was Catholic; she was a Protestant. She devoted her time not only helping women deliver babies but also supporting those that were desperate for birth control methods. “Locked in societal cells, these women cannot protect themselves from situations of no choice.” Poor women begged for her help while raising a number of kids.
This book is beautifully written highlighting pertinent parts of the early 1900s. The author did an incredible amount of research from diaries, letters, reference materials to bring about a story which includes the World War, Titanic and Lusitania disasters, flu pandemic and 19th amendment ratification. “If mothers controlled their bodies, they controlled their future and their children’s. They would achieve a new height in women’s rights even without the vote.” I could only wonder what the suffragist would be thinking now.
She starts by saying: “For my grandmother, Elizabeth Peirce Elliott Robinson. I never knew your full story, so I had to create one.” At the end, she reveals more in the Author Notes. She also has a section, "Reader's Group Guide." It’s historical fiction at its best.
My thanks to Janis Robinson Daly, Black Rose Writing and NetGalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy with the expected release date of August 25, 2022.
Well researched and rich with historical detail, The Unlocked Path should be required reading for women and men alike. This work of historical fiction speaks directly to the cultural upheavals affecting all women and girls of our own time. The main character is richly developed and the plot pulls the reader in, keeping one turning pages. It is a well-told tale, but it is more than just the story of one woman’s struggle to find her own path at the turn of the last century. It is more than a simple chronicling of the women’s struggle to become seen as fully human and to have the rights of first class citizens. Sometimes, fiction can speak truth better than any journalist’s report or academic’s monograph. Such is the case with Janis Daly’s The Unlocked Path. Highly recommended. Linda Bennett Pennell, author of the award winning The Last Dollar Princess
This Historical Fiction follows Dr. Eliza Pearson Edwards, a fictional character based on the author's own relative, who is one of the first women to complete medical school as the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. This historical fiction, set at the turn of the 20th century, covers everything relevant to the time period: suffrage, societal views of women (and especially female doctors), the titanic sinking, racism and discrimination towards immigrants, the Catholic church's view of abortion and contraception, WWI, secret lesbian relationships, the Spanish Flu and more! Janis Robinson Daly definitely knows her stuff when it comes to history from this time period.
I really loved how the author portrayed Eliza. She is an independent and determined young woman who knows that just becoming a wife and mother is not enough for her, she wants to challenge herself academically. When she convinces her mother that she should and will attend medical school, she sets out on a path that is very unusual for this time period and one that does not follow a nice gentle path. The author is realistic about the time period and includes many challenges for Eliza including: conflicting views of her profession, academic difficulties, disastrous romances and the inner conflict between her desires for both a career and family.
As far as Historical Fictions go, this one follows a nice, easy chronological timeline that gives just enough foreshadowing for you to guess what might come during the next current event. There is no time hopping and it is just told from Eliza's perspective - though the other characters are well developed and therefore there are actually a good number of storylines and ideas to explore throughout the story.
I would definitely give this book a 5 star rating and recommend it for anyone interested in historical fictions set in the late 1800s/early 1900s with some medical drama. Thanks so much to NetGalley and Erin at Darcie Rowan PR for the opportunity to read and review this great book!
Debut author Janis Robinson Daly writes with a fresh voice that brings her readers instantly into a story that, in so many ways, is shockingly similar to today’s world. The Unlocked path could not be more timely, even though it is set in a period well over a century old.
Flawlessly researched with characters that come alive on the page, I would never have guessed a debut novelist wrote this book.
Whether you enjoy historical fiction for its own sake or to see how far humanity has risen, or not, I promise that you will enjoy this book and look forward to Ms. Daly’s next endeavor as much as I am.
Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me an early read.
Many thanks to Black Rose Writing, and to NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Unlocked Path.
I was enthralled the moment I started reading this book. The year was 1897 and the place was Philadelphia. Eliza rejects her mother’s wishes for a society debut and, at a time when five percent of doctors are female, she enters the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Eliza Pearson Edwards was such a brave young woman to follow her heart and become a doctor. Speaking of heart, there was so much heart in this book!
I was shocked when I read that this was the author's debut novel! In The Unlocked Path, Janis Robinson Daly introduces her readers to a “New Woman” of the early 20th century. Eliza Edwards is educated, career-minded, and independent. Everything I read felt historically accurate and was utterly fascinating. I can't imagine the amount of research that that required. Oh, how I loved Anandi, Olga, and Edith as they formed an unbreakable support system with Eliza. There were historically accurate elements, such as the Spanish Flu and the sinking of the Titanic, at the same time Eliza was dedicating her life to giving women choices when it came to contraception, pregnancy, and safe abortions.
Intrigued by the discovery that an ancestor was a founder of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Janis Robinson Daly found her next career path: unearthing the stories of women whose lives have remained in the shadows. She beautifully balanced authenticity with fictional flair in The Unlocked Path!
Lovers of historical fiction will swoon over this book. I recommend it!
The Unlocked Path is an inspirational and compelling novel of historical fiction. Set at the end of the 19th century, it is the story of Eliza, an intelligent and determined young woman who shatters many glass ceilings to become a doctor. We follow her journey through times of turbulence, as she experiences love and heartache in her personal life, as well as misogyny and the unfair treatment of women in her professional life. I was in awe of her courage and dedication, as she had to fight for her own rights, as well as the rights of all women.
In a time when much of a woman’s path is predetermined by societal norms, can Eliza unlock her own path and realize her own dream?
This book opens with Eliza attending to her aunt who is refusing to see a male doctor. Soon after Eliza receives an invitation in the mail for her society debut, but is desperate to avoid it and go her own way. After much debate her mother allows her to apply to medical school and Eliza starts down the path she has always dreamed of.
In the beginning of this book I thought this book was headed toward a much more “I don’t need a man” kind of storyline, but that isn’t what this book was about at all. This was about a woman having the right to choose when and how things happen to her- when she gets married, when she has children, when she enters the workforce, etc.
I really liked this book! It was full of historical accuracy, with a few minor details bent to fit the story’s timeline. I loved Eliza’s independent attitude and the friendships that she made throughout the book. I felt many of the side characters were well developed too (many of them were based on actual historical characters).
I did struggle a bit with the names of at least three of the female characters all starting with the letter E- it just made it a little harder to keep them straight.
One piece of the storyline- the abortionist piece- didn’t quite feel completed to me. At this moment I can’t remember if there was any real resolution there.
Overall, I found this to be a good book and I would recommend it to historical fiction lovers!
Thank you to net galley and Black Rose Writing for this arc copy of this book. This book was a phenomenal work of historical fiction discussing how women became doctors around 1898. This book had short chapters, a personal authors note at the back, and even discusion questions. This was a debut authors book but, I would not have known because the writing was excellent, so hard to stop reading. I love the characters I immediately fell in love with them. Eliza was my favorite she was a compassionate and hard working character. I hope I will be reading a sequel to the story.
An enjoyable and touching story from beginning to end. Our main character is a young woman at the turn of the 19th century named Eliza who’s trying to find her place in the world. In searching for a path she instead finds her purpose, and works tirelessly to make it a reality. Through loss, doubt, joy, love, and maturity we see Eliza strive to uphold her personal mission. In some ways I related to her and in others I saw a friend I wish I had. The twists and turns throughout her life kept me guessing what the next chapter would have in store for her.
I love how it mentions and makes use of notable events and people from the time like Lydia Pinkham and the Titanic. True to history but never predictable. I especially loved her mentioning one of my personal heroes, Dr. Josephine Baker. The author is wonderful at using her knowledge of medicine, women’s struggles, and history to tell a story our society needs. I was particularly fond of how the stories aren’t overly dramatized. For the time period, the situations feel genuine and the struggles heartbreakingly common. I was delighted to see just how many of the characters and information came from history.
I also appreciated the way I never felt talked down to. The passages of time, terminology, and character development feel natural and not overly spelled out. I adore how we aren’t necessarily privy to all of Eliza’s most important moments. Instead we witness the moments that matter towards her development as a woman and doctor. It resonates with my soul in a way I find hard to explain. I hope there’s another book that follows Eliza into later life. Society changed so quickly in the course of her lifetime. I’d love to see how she continued to grow and adapt. So many of the characters feel like acquaintances, I want to check in on them.
When I saw The Unlocked Path on Net Galley, I immediately knew it was for me. I have an interest in any nonfiction or historical fiction book that deals with women trying to enter the medical profession as physicians back “in the day.” It was once a man’s world, one in which women did not belong. It took time, courage, sacrifice, and dogged determination back then for a woman to successfully break into what we women called “The Boy’s Club” back in early 1970s when I entered medical school. Of course, the path had been paved a bit by then, but still, when I started my internal residency in 1980 there were only 5 women in the class of 50 and only 3 of the women finished the program. Subsequently, after I completed 3-year infectious diseases fellowship I became the first woman ever to be hired into the Division of Infectious Diseases at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I joined 12 men as my division mates. At that time there were no women on staff in the Gastroenterology Division or the Cardiology Division, which were by far the two largest divisions in the Internal Medicine Department, and certainly no women in Orthopedics or Neurosurgery. Thus, my interest in The Unlocked Path.
This story is a wonderful historical fiction novel based on Ms. Daly’s family history. Make sure to read her Author’s Note where she reveals the intriguing tie-in. The book starts around the time of Eliza’s 18th birthday in 1897. Eliza’s mother is very excited about planning her daughter’s social debut as 18 is the age that a young woman was expected to prepare to find a husband and start a family. Eliza did not want to do that. Eliza wanted to do more with her life, much more. Hence her ultimate decision to go against her mother and enter The Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now a part of Drexel University), one of the very first schools in the country to offer women the opportunity to become a physician.
From that point we follow Eliza for the next 23 years as time takes us through her successes and her struggles over the backdrop of politics (including differences over rights for contraception and abortion), the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania, the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, WWI, and the passage of the 19th Amendment. What I loved most was the drive Eliza mustered to live up to what she felt was her responsibility to be not only a dedicated physician, but also a great citizen, and the risks taken and sacrifices made by her to attain her goals. I also really liked the family dynamics with her mother and aunts; her deep, long-lasting relationships with her best friends from medical school; and how she dealt with the issues surrounding her own primary family. I know Boston well and it was depicted perfectly in the book as was Philadelphia. I was also impressed with the medical expertise showcased in the novel. In all aspects—historical facts, politics, medical expertise, and settings—the author’s research was thorough.
The storyline is addictive and flowed extremely well. The writing is excellent. The ending is realistic. When I read the final page, my eyes filled with tears that the story was over. How surprising and gratifying to go to the author’s Goodreads page 5 minutes later and see that she is working on a sequel to cover the later years of Eliza’s life! Clearly, I am very impressed with this debut effort and recommend it highly to all interested in an engrossing historical fiction read.
I would like to thank Net Galley, Black Rose Writing, and Ms. Janis Robinson Daly for an advanced copy. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
Historical fiction placed in the early 20th century, when women were just beginning to push for opportunities.
The women's medical school is real, and the characters while fiction are realistic. The story is told well, with many different types of female characters.
I look forward to further writing from Ms. Daly!
Thank you netgalley and Black Rose Writing. Publication: August 25, 2022.
Four stars feels like a bit of a gift; 3.5 feels more on target. It's a debut novel from Janis Robinson Daly, with a lot of promise and a decent storyline ...but also with a few beginner mistakes. (Ones I would have expected a good editor to have helped point out.)
As the author explains in her Afterword, Daly draws from her own family's history and extensive other research to create this novel.
On the plus side, this is the story about a group of determined women who become some of the first female doctors (in the early 1900s) in the United States. The bonds of friendship and sisterhood, formed during their studies, sustain each one throughout their lives.
Eliza Edwards, whose mother is hoping her debut in Philadelphia society will result in a promising marriage, is the main protagonist. Eliza, not surprisingly, must overcome not just family expectations but many more obstacles to earn her credentials. And even then, still faces years of doubts from male colleagues and prospective patients.
As years pass, it's clear that Eliza and her fellow students make considerable personal sacrifices but great contributions as well, as they navigate some of the most dramatic events of this era -- urban poverty, widespread misogyny, women's suffrage, religious and legal restrictions against abortion and contraceptives, sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the Flu Epidemic of 1918, and more. And all the time, they are continually weighing professional aspirations against the deeply ingrained societal expectations for women of this period.
Now, on the minus side, there’s quite an overuse of similes and metaphors in some heavy-handed descriptions. And a few seemed clumsy to me (example: "Silence engulfed the room, frozen stiff as a blanket on a winter clothesline."), Some descriptions to me did little more than slow the pace of the book. Fortunately, this is particularly true in the beginning of the novel, becoming much less of an issue as the plot unfolded. There are also a few places where it feels like extraneous but well-researched information about the time period is forced into the story, even when it has little to do with advancing the plot.
This is subject matter that interests me. So I kept reading. And I'm glad I finished the book. I learned a lot about the lives of ambitious women in the early 20th century and about the limited opportunities for women to study medicine. It's also an interesting picture of the country's healthcare system and the differing level of care available, depending on social class. Overall, good story. Hoping Daly’s next book is even stronger.
If you're looking for a historical fiction novel set at the turn of the 20th century with strong female characters, look no further. Eliza Edwards is not your typical teenager preparing for her debut into society. She yearns for a life with more meaning. Upon finding her grandfather's copy of Gray's Anatomy, she is determined to become a doctor and help women with their medical needs in a compassionate and discrete manner.
As the years pass, Eliza defies societal norms and becomes a respected female obstetrician, delivering babies and caring for women's specific needs. For her success at overcoming sexism, she still yearns to have a family of her own while continuing her work. The novel progresses through Eliza's life as she experiences WWI, the Spanish flu epidemic and the victory of the women's suffragist movement.
I enjoyed the historical aspects of this novel and learning about the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. I liked the fact that the novel wasn't cluttered with silly romantic side stories as women's fiction novels often are. I especially enjoyed the strong female characters who were prominently featured in this novel.
Thank you to NetGalley, Darcie Rowan PR and Black Rose Writing for this review copy in exchange for any honest review. This review can also be found on IG @maria.needs.to.read and on Goodreads.
This book was read for the Historical Novels Review Magazine, November 1, 2022 issue. After this date a full review will be posted here, on Goodreads and the blog.
Thank you Net Galley for the ARC of The Unlocked Path by Janis Robinson Daly in exchange for an honest review. As a fan of historical fiction, I enjoyed this story of Eliza Edwards forging a new path as a doctor in the late 1800s when the choices for women were few and far between. Eliza did not want the traditional path of coming out in Philadelphia's society. She explored other paths with help from her aunts which included visiting City Hall and the Naval Asylum. Eliza found the text, Gray's Anatomy, in father's library and was intrigued by its contents. Going against her mother's wishes, she enrolled in the Women's Medical College and became one of the first female doctors in 1901. This story touches on many female issues of the time, with many continuing even today, including voting rights, working women, birth control, and abortion rights. Woven throughout the story is how family can make you feel connected and loved, whether it is biological or those people you consider family. The author did her research for this book. I thought this book was timely for the many women's issues incorporated as well as the Covid pandemic similarity to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. If you are a fan of HF, women's issues, and family connections, I recommend The Unlocked Path.
The Unlocked Path
Author, Janis Robinson Daly
Pub date: 8.25.22
Thank you Darcie Rowan PR and @netgalley for sending me the e- copy of this novel!
Based on the inspiration from learning more about her interesting family tree and that her great- great grandfather was the founder of the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Daly imagined a sweeping historical fiction novel that tells the dynamic story of the progressive and driven female physician, Eliza Edwards.
Daly begins in 1897 in Philadelphia when, much to her mother's joy, Eliza is presented with the opportunity to attend her society debut. However, after witnessing her aunt's tragic death and realizing that there are other ways in which she would like to live her life than of a wife and mother, Eliza begins to pursue other career interests. Upon meeting an inspiring and determined Indian woman who attends the all- women Medical College, Eliza begins her medical studies in hopes of acceptance into the college. What follows is the challenging journey through Eliza's medical education and career in which she learns how to fight off doubts, sexism, and prejudices that actually allow for Eliza to become even better equipped in her role as an Obstetrician, feminist, and patient advocate.
Her fellow classmates and faculty prove to be exceptionally supportive and she forms wonderful relationships with interesting and encouraging individuals along the way. As a Nurse Practitioner, I was able to appreciate some of the issues Eliza experienced as a female in the medical field as well as appreciate her accurate medical encounters, treatments, and compassion that she held for her patients. Another aspect that was interesting about Daly's historical fiction debut was that it took place from 1897 to 1920 during the era of economic instability. Therefore, events including WWI, the Spanish flu, the tragedy of the Titanic, and Prohibition were discussed as the character's were either directly affected or learned about these events as they occurred.
The Unlocked Path is an inspiring and well- researched debut novel with a strong and brave female protagonist that I absolutely recommend for fans of Amanda Skenadnore, Emily Gunnis, Emma Donaghue, and Martha Hall Kelly.
The Unlocked Path comes out tomorrow and it is a historical fiction set in 1890s Philadelphia.
Eliza decided to enter the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia in 1897 after rejecting her mother's desire for a society debut. This book is about her path to following her dreams to become a doctor to help other women and the challenges she faces not only on becoming a doctor but her family obligations and the idea of a career vs marriage/motherhood throughout the next twenty years.
I love how researched this is! I had no idea there was a Women's Medical College in Philly from 1850 to 1970, it's now part of the Drexel University College of Medicine. The author's great great grandfather helped found it and while Eliza is a fictional character she is based on letters and diaries from some of the women enrolled during that time period.
If you are at all interested in historical fiction about female doctors this is a great book!
It's 1897 Philadelphia, Eliza Edwards is eighteen years old and preparing for her debut in society. After the death of a loved one, she decides that going down her expected path of searching for a husband and then becoming a mother may not be for her. While visiting the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, she is inspired and decides to become a doctor. She embarks on a successful career where she is able to help women who would otherwise refuse medical care as they didn't want to be treated by a male doctor. Her journey is supported by a wonderful family including aunts who are also trailblazers.
The Unlocked Path is the well-researched debut novel of author Janis Robinson Daly and was inspired by her own family. As a fan of historical fiction, this story was extremely interesting and satisfying. The characters were all very well-formed and I became very connected to them. I especially liked how real-world events were woven into Eliza's story. This is a story of love, determination, family and friendship, which is the type of book I find especially appealing.
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