“Skip Rock Shallows” is the latest offering from award-winning author Jan Watson. Set in eastern Kentucky in 1908, it is the heartwarming story of Dr. Lilly Corbett. Fresh out of medical school, Lilly travels to the coal camp of Skip Rock for a short term assignment. Her fiancé, Dr. Paul Hamilton, is completing his residency in Boston and is unable to understand why she would want to leave the benefits of city life to go to such a backwoods place.
But she is drawn to Skip Rock, and is looking forward to gaining valuable experience by assisting the doctor there. She will also be close to her childhood home on Troublesome Creek.
After learning the town doctor passed away just days before her arrival, Lilly takes on the task of opening the clinic, determined to honor her commitment. The residents of Skip Rock, however, are not expecting a female doctor. When Lilly, a “slip of a woman,” gets off the train, they are not at all pleased.
Two weeks in, there is an accident in the mine; part of a roof has collapsed. The mine foreman is reluctant to ask for her help, because “in his world women weren’t doctors and they didn’t belong in the mines.” But the coal company has sent her and a miner is trapped, so he relents. At risk to her own life, Lilly goes in to care for and help free the trapped miner. Through this crisis, attitudes begin to soften toward the new doctor.
One of the miners in Skip Rock seems familiar to her. Joe Repp, if that really is his name, reminds her of someone from her past. Chance encounters with Mr. Repp lead her to explore why she feels inexplicably drawn to him.
Near the end of her agreed upon time at Skip Rock, a growing attachment to the folks there causes her to re-evaluate her plan to move to Boston and marry the refined Dr. Hamilton. The townsfolk need her, and perhaps she needs them as well.
“Skip Rock Shallows” is well written, with a good balance of suspense blended with humor and romance. The plot, often taking unexpected turns, keeps the reader engaged. Watson has a special talent for developing distinctive characters we want to get to know better. Her descriptions of the characters are fascinating.
Remarkable details of mining operations are scattered throughout the book, providing the reader with an appreciation for hardships endured by miners and their families. As one of the women in town tells Lilly, “It’s for sure our kind of folks bear up under what can’t be set aside.”
Although Skip Rock Shallows is labeled historical fiction, it is also romantic and faith-based fiction. Perhaps most notably it is Kentucky fiction, because it gives us insight into the way of life of those who lived here before us.
Watson lives in Lexington and is a member of the Grassroots Writers Group. She writes for Tyndale House Publishers. “Skip Rock Shallows” is her sixth novel. She recently was recognized by Kentucky Living Magazine as 2012 Best in Kentucky Author.
Dinner with the author
A special dinner with author Jan Watson is set for 6:40 p.m. Thursday at The Bluebird Café on Main Street in Stanford. A three-course meal and beverage will be served; cost is $25 per person. Seating is limited. Advance registration is required; call (606) 669-9500.
The menu will feature: Pear Salad; entree choice — Stuffed Smokehouse Chicken, stuffed with wild mushroom, spinach and ricotta, topped with toasted Japanese bread crumbs, smoked Gouda mornay and served with garlic orzo; Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Rum Demi-Glace, pan-seared and marinated pork tenderloin medallions finished in a rum demi glace reduction and served with spinach callaloo and black bean and corn salsa; Tropical Grilled Salmon, charbroiled seasoned salmon topped with pineapple jalapeno salsa, served with garlic orzo and grilled zucchini; and Chef's Choice Dessert.