|THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE AMERICAN WEST
A brave woman chooses an independent career
with a commitment to her community
The term lifeblood has several meanings in this novel. It is the water that runs through the Carson River Valley of northern Nevada. Access to water is essential for ranching and for mining, the two driving (and competing) industries of this part of the American frontier. Lifeblood also refers to health and medicine. Sarah Austen has a calling to become a healer. As a child she cares for her asthmatic mother, and in time she becomes a midwife, then physician's apprentice, then a medical student in San Francisco, and in the end the trusted
Lifeblood is the riveting story of Sarah Austen, who comes to the American West in 1856 at the age of twelve. As she grows and becomes an independent woman, Sarah is courted by two men, Walther Rottenburg, a powerful rancher; and a young immigrant Sardinian named Giovanni (or Gio) Corberddu, the mill superintendent for the mining company. The two men, rivals for Sarah's affection, are also in bitter conflict over water rights and access to the lifeblood of the Carson Valley.
Sarah chooses not to settle down with either man, but instead to follow her dream of becoming a healer. Health and healing are major themes running through this novel, for the dangers of disease and injury are ever-present. The illnesses Sarah must confront include mercury poisoning, opium addiction, and tuberculosis, as well as rheumatism, asthma, dysentery, and more. Add to these medical problems the recurring sandstorms, drought, and blizzards. Nevada in the nineteenth century was not an easy time or place to live.
But in spite of hardships and setbacks, Lifeblood shows us the persistence and personal ambition on the part of a young woman who is determined to live on her own, and by herself, so that she can do the most good for the place that she has made her home and the people she has adopted as her community. Sarah Austen, more than any other character in the novel, represents the lifeblood of her adopted home.
Ann Funk earned a degree in history from Stanford and a Master of Arts degree in creative writing from Antioch University. She has written articles for Westways Magazine and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and has contributed to The Nevadan, The Humboldt Historian, The Genoa-Carson Valley Book, and the Gardnerville Record-Courier. She now lives in Santa Barbara, California.
by Ann Funk
288 pages, paperback, $16.95
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