Barbara Burd's Reviews > Doc

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
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's review
Apr 19, 12

Read in April, 2012

Several years ago someone had recommended The Sparrow to me and i was hooked on Mary Doria Russell. This latest book was a change in genre for me , but when I read that her father was a sheriff, her interest in this historical period started to make sense. Alas, my familiarity with this period of western history came from watching westerns, like Maverick and Bat Masterson, in my childhood, so I really didn't know what to expect from the book. Russell is such a careful and thoughtful researcher she brought this history to life. She excels in character development and one of her goals was to dispel the myth of Doc Holiday and the exaggerated stories of the wild west. Her portrayal of Holiday is balanced and I couldn't help thinking about his dilemma--how does one live when from a very young age you know that you are dying. Facing the constant betrayal of his body, Holiday vacillated between quiet acceptance to violent anger, sometimes taking this out on others. His is a life of paradox as Russell contrasts his dedication to dentistry and his artistry in improving lives through his occupation against his need to make a living as a gambler which sometimes brought out the worst in his character. Russell's portrayal is gentle and understanding when needed and uncompromising and truthful. The relationship with the Earp brothers, with Bat Masterson and with Katie Elder are based on fact and Russell brings insight into each of these historical bigger-than-life figures. Russell carves out a period of history that is often exaggerated and, through fact, brings this period to life in a way that doesn't need embellishment. Reading this makes me want to return to Russell's older works and re-read them. I realize how much I have missed her.

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