Skip Rock Shallows

Skip Rock Shallows
Jan Watson
Tyndale, 2012

Lilly Gray Corbett grew up in the mountains of Kentucky, and when her first assignment after medical school sends her to a mining community not far from where she was raised, Lilly thinks things will fall into place. She wasn't counting on the people to resist so strongly to the fact she was a woman doctor however, and struggles to make sense of why she is even in Skip Rock. When an accident requires all her skill and precision to save the leg of an injured miner, Lilly starts to gain the acceptance of the community. It's slow going, but with the help of Ned - the injured miner's cousin - Lilly finds herself being accepted and respected by the people of Skip Rock. Even more than that, the community itself, particularly the women, begin to forge new bonds of friendship and a truer sense of community.

Skip Rock Shallows focuses not just on Lilly and her struggles with practicing medicine in a rugged Kentucky coal town, but also her fight against the past - and learning what it means to more fully lean on God, even when His ways don't seem to line up with her plans. And then there's the mysterious and handsome miner - Joe - who seems to be hiding something. As readers, we get to know Lilly and "Joe" (his real name is Tern) separately, seeing both struggle with reconciling their pasts with their presents. With every confrontation and incident that occurs, Lilly and Tern - and the whole Skip Rock family - learn to see the light of truth clearer, in a world dominated by the inky blackness of the coal mines.

The historical elements of Skip Rock Shallows I found to be particularly intriguing, as my familiarity with coal mining is limited to October Sky and The Rocket Boys. I also appreciated that the medical details were not too gory. Even though the story is split between Lilly and Tern's points of view, it's done in a way that is easy to follow and builds the story as a whole. Their interactions are real, and I loved Lilly's humanness. The people of Skip Rock are colorful characters, and each adds much to the atmosphere and flavor of the novel. On the whole, a very enjoyable read and I have discovered a new historical fiction author.

Book provided by publisher for review.

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