This review is also available in German, although, to the best of my knowledge, no German translation of Reconstructing Soldiers exists. During the genesis of this review, the opportunity for an interview with Margaret Drake arose, in which she talks about her motivations, inspirations and research techniques. This interview was published on the 26th of March 2017 and is also accessible on our website.

Summary

London, Kentucky is by no means a metropolis, not today, and not at the beginning of the 20th century. Education for everyone is no naturalness, the womens’ right to vote is still not established throughout the US und women are usually dependent on their husbands to support themselves. The female vocational perspectives at this time range from helping on the parental farm to working as a housemaid through to marriage and giving birth to children. (Article picture from Ellen Forsyth via Flickr: CC BY-SA 2.0)

We accompany Lorena Langley—a bright young woman for whom especially the last „vocational possibility“ is somewhat horrifying—who has the opportunity to attend Vermilion Academy High School in Vermilion Grove and consecutively William Penn-College in Oskaloosa through the advocacy of her local librarian with an affluent widow. During this process, she gets in touch with the Settlement-Movement in Chicago’s Hull House, with Jane Addams, and in a broader sense also with Eleanor Clarke Slagle and the new educational possibilities in Occupational Therapy, which she finally decides to pursue.

The plot leads readers, together with Lorena, through the time of OT-education, the work in a psychiatric hospital right up to the American entry into the first World War in 1917. In the course of the war, she joins the army and, together with other „reconstruction aides“, is sent to France, where they work at the base hospital 117 in La Fauche until the end of the war.

The bottom line

If you read the reviews of the book on Amazon, you might get the impression, that the book is not worth your time, mistakes in grammar and orthography and a predictable plot development are complained about. Be that as it may, I’d like to argue for a wholeheartedly recommendation of the book mainly for two reasons:

First, in my opinion the research regarding the historical context is very well done, there is a lot to learn about history, society, gender roles, health care systems and the first steps of the development of the profession of Occupational Therapy itself in this time period, with hindrances that can also be verified today, e.g. in the work of Pettigrew et al. (2017).

And second, and maybe even more important: It is a novel written by an Occupational Therapist, covers the topic of Occupational Therapy in a historical context and the main protagonist is an Occupational Therapist too. Alone against the backdrop of media presence of our profession as a whole, I consider the book as an (easy going) compulsory reading, especially for students and colleagues with a historical interest.

Literature

Other novels by Margaret Drake

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