The Calling of Ella McFarland

The Calling of Ella McFarlandThe Calling of Ella McFarland by Linda Brooks Davis
Genres: Historical
Published by Mountainview Books on December 1, 2015
Pages: 376

 

Ella McFarland has always dreamed of teaching at Worthington School for Girls. However, her sister’s illegitimate child has cast scandal over her family name. Eager to live out her calling in the classroom, rather than continue with the grueling farm work that comprises her life in the Indian Territory, Ella strives to impress the Worthington board despite her humble beginnings. Coming changes force her to re-evaluate her teaching aspirations. Oklahoma statehood is on the horizon in 1905, complicated by the raging women’s suffrage debate. When Ella rescues a young, mistreated sharecropper’s daughter, her calling begins to morph into something entirely new. Torn by different loyalties, new love and societal pressures, Ella struggles to find God’s will amidst the chaos that surrounds her.

The Calling of Ella McFarland is a well-written and engaging story. There are many details about life in 1905, and Linda uses them to ground the reader solidly within the setting. Whether it was simpler details about household chores or details about more complex events, such as women’s suffrage, Linda grounds the reader solidly in the story’s setting with these details. Ella herself is caught up in a time when women had few rights, but were beginning to fight for them in earnest. Her sense of duty to her family and her desire to achieve her calling has a universal appeal.

Ella herself is caught up in a time when women had few rights, but were beginning to fight for them in earnest. Her sense of duty to her family and her desire to achieve her calling has a universal appeal.

I did feel that at times the story suffered from having too many things going on in the plot. It was part search for calling, part family drama, and part romance. Certainly a story can hold several different plot elements, but there were times that it didn’t flow smoothly from one element to another. Some elements of the plot appear to take Ella by surprise, as with her joining the suffrage movement. She just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and it all fell into place that suddenly she was protesting and had joined the movement. Other times, she made decisions that didn’t ring true, like going on an overnight trip with just herself and the young girl in her care. Although these instances did give me pause, typically I was able to overlook them and still enjoy the storyline.

Despite the way Violet’s character is handled, I found the family dynamic to be engaging and realistic.

Linda’s writing excelled with the interactions of the McFarland family, the only exception being how they handled Ella’s spiteful sister, Violet. I found the relationship between Ella and her parents, especially her mother, to be especially endearing and heartfelt. Special details of their traditions and daily activities added a lovely depth to their characters. The exception, as I said earlier, being her sister, Violet. One thing I dislike in stories is when a character behaves badly on numerous occasions, and no one in the family calls them on it, yet the main character could make one crabby remark or have one bad day and is called on it immediately. Then it’s always a surprise when aforementioned character is doing something dubious or deceitful. Despite the way Violet’s character is handled, I found the family dynamic to be engaging and realistic. Ella’s twin brother is a sweet yet stubborn protector, and her younger sister a day-dreamer.

Surprisingly, I did not call the romance from the beginning as I typically can. I thought perhaps there would be a love triangle, but thankfully there is not. The romance was fairly straightforward once I understood what was going on, but I felt that it fit into the story well since the focus was more on Ella finding her calling, not a husband. It was a relief to find that her calling didn’t turn into finding her husband, so kudos to Linda for not taking that easy route when writing the romance! Ella is convinced that she can’t live out her calling and have a husband, which at times was frustrating, but also understandable given the timeframe and how little say women had in their lives.

The endearing McFarland family, Ella’s bravery and insightful historical elements all come together to create an engaging, well-flowing story.

Although I did wish that the story had focused more on one or two plot points, overall, there is a lot to enjoy in this story. The endearing McFarland family, Ella’s bravery and insightful historical elements all come together to create an engaging, well-flowing story. I recommend this book primarily for fans of historical romances.

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