Operation First Novel Contest Winner Book Reviews ~ The Calling of Ella McFarland

I’m glad to present to you another finalist in the OFN Contest ~ Linda Brooks Davis with THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND. In fact, this is the winner! Here’s a peek from the back cover:

“Ella McFarland’s dream is a teaching position at Worthington School for Girls. But scandal clouds her family name and may limit her to a life of grueling farm labor in the Indian Territory. Her fate lies in the hands of the Worthington board, and there happens to be one strikingly handsome man with a vote. Will they overlook the illegitimate son recently borne by her sister, Viola?

1905 brings hope of Oklahoma statehood and the woman’s suffrage debate is raging, forcing Ella to make decisions abut her faith, family, and aspirations. When she comes to the rescue of a young, abused sharecropper’s daughter, her calling begins to take shape in ways she never imagined. Education is Ella’s passion, but a new love is budding in her heart. Can she find God’s will amidst the tumultuous storm that surrounds her?”

ELLA McFarland Cover

I liked the plucky heroine, Ella, and the abused young woman, Lily, that Ella takes into her home. I enjoyed the relationship Ella shared with her parents, and her would-be suitor, Andrew. In a story of over-coming, there must be villains – and to be sure, they appear as well, attracting suspicion if not outright contempt.

This story portrays struggles and how they’re handled by both people of faith and those without. One reviewer mentioned appreciating characters who develop in response to the challenges faced, and this story does that well for the main characters.

Davis draws vivid characters with well-chosen detail, exemplified by Mr. Abernathy of the Worthington School’s Board. Davis writes, “The man’s tone had turned as severe as his starched collar.” When he tells Ella the board is deadlocked on her application and must deliberate further, the following exchange takes place:

[Ella] faced the men. “There’s more to it isn’t there?”

Mr. Abernathy eyed her like a whooping crane spying a minnow. “See here–”

Maryland - haywagonI can visualize this tense little battle and learn a lot from just a few lines. The author’s skill at choosing just the right detail continues in setting and dialog, providing an always fresh experience more like watching a movie than reading.

I appreciated that some story lines included such tough—and often taboo—issues of child abuse and attempted rape. These were handled with discretion and without gratuitous details.

A couple things reduced my enjoyment of the story. At times it is predictable. At other moments, Davis suddenly turns the path and we enjoy a surprise. Occasionally character motivation for a particular choice didn’t convince me. The plot tightens as the story progresses, as a good story should. However, at certain points it seems to do so at such a frenetic perils-of-Pauline pace that I actually pulled out of the fictive world and thought about pacing issues.

I’d probably rate this at 4 1/2 stars. And, to be fair ~ this novel is only the fourth I’ve read on an e-reader, and I suspect that reading in that format may lessen my involvement in a book. But Linda B. Davis spins a good story and writes in an appealing manner. I look forward to more from her. You can learn more about her here.


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