Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mrs. Mike

by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
New York: Berkley Books, 2002 (original copyright 1947).

In the early 1900s, sixteen-year-old Katherine Mary moves to Canada to live with her uncle, hoping that the air will help her pleurisy. She meets Sergeant Mike Flannigan, a Mountie. He makes her mad with her teasing, but as she confides in her new friend, Mildred, "he has eyes so blue you could swim in them." When they marry, duty calls him to the North, where there are few white women and being a Mountie isn't so much being a policeman as it is peacemaker and doctor.

This was a sweet, sad, but hopeful tale. I enjoyed Kathy and Mike and their growing relationship as the years pass and they go through various experiences in their married lives. Having just read The Egypt Game and The Summer of My German Soldier, I couldn't help but notice how this book from the 1940s dealt with race. "Mrs. Mike" lives in a territory where there are primarily trappers and Indian women, and her opinions include historically accurate generalizations, such as when she wonders about introducing strikes to the Indian women, but concludes that they're "savages and wouldn't understand." Yet the portrayal of some of the individual characters, especially when compared to some of their white counterparts, give a much more nuanced picture. Though Kathy's spoken opinions never say as much, one can see a difference in the way she responds to characters in given situations as she continues to live and work with Indians and half-Indians. This is a story I would definitely read again, and I'm going to look for the sequels as well.

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