The Doctor Calling, the second novel from new Australian author Meredith Appleyard, is a gentle read with many instances where your heart breaks for the sadness of the central characters – each one of them dealing with heartache, loss, broken dreams or just pure disappointment at the way life has turned out.
A caring old great-aunt has willed an historical cottage to two sisters. The author paints a wonderful word picture of life in a South Australian rural township as its newest resident finds solace in the anonymity of this isolated community far from her usual residence in Adelaide, the state’s capital city.
Laura’s life had been shattered by the loss of the three closest people in her life over a period of only a few short weeks. When the reality of her new situation becomes all too much, she hides away from everything and everyone in the little town of Potters Junction – including her vocation as a successful big city GP – until she finds herself being drawn to Neill, the elderly gentleman next door.
To her dismay, she learns he is in the final throes of a terrible disease. His children are already struggling with their own hardships and demons and now they have to cope with seeing their father’s body becoming withered and ravaged as time ticks away far too quickly.
A gentle awakening of emotions occurs when Laura meets Jake, Neill’s adopted son. He is torn between fulfilling his dreams of working on another documentary in Afghanistan or making peace with his father after a lifetime filled with hurt and bitterness from when his mother left them for another man many years earlier.
Struggling with a husband who has lost the desire to care for his family nor the knowledge of how to run a sheep station, Jess, Neill’s only daughter, tries to hold the family farm together for the sake of her two young children as well as her father after the years he put in to make it successful.
Add into the mix a local GP with a crabby nature and a long-held secret who is about to retire, along with a simmering attraction that neither Laura nor Jake knows whether they dare share their true feelings for one another, and you have a tender love story that keeps a reader turning the pages right to the very end.
Well done, Meredith Appleyard, for penning a poignant tale set in the harshness of life in rural Australia.
The Doctor Calling by Meredith Appleyard is available from Dymocks.