the low down on new books

Doc: A Novel

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Mary Doria Russell. 416 p. Published May 2011 by Random House.  Bought from for my Kindle because I LOVED The Sparrow.

Verdict: ★★★★★

Who Cares? Adult Historical Fiction

Short Bio (from Publisher’s Weekly): Russell (Dreamers of the Day) brings lethal Dodge City to life in a colorful group-portrait of famous frontiersmen years before many of them would pass into legend at the O.K. Corral. After a tense childhood in Civil War–torn Georgia and the loss of his beloved mother, young John Henry “Doc” Holliday moves west in hopes of ameliorating the tuberculosis that would eventually kill him, relocating in the late 1870s to Kansas, where he divides his time among his poorly paying vocation of dentistry, lucrative gambling, and his fractious relationship with Kate Harony, a cultured, Hungarian-born prostitute. In a tale notable more for a remarkable cast than orderliness of plot, the rising tension between the corrupt, carousing, and well-armed inhabitants of Dodge and the forces of law represented by the moralistic Wyatt Earp and his brother, Morgan, makes a spectacular background to a memorable year-in-the-life tale of a fiery young Southern gentleman whose loyalty to his friends and love of music outshine even his fragile health and the whiskey-soaked violence of the western

Eyewitness Account: The only criticism of this book I can truthfully give is that it ended too soon!  Russell managed to do what she did so expertly in The Sparrow – she introduced me to a cast of characters that I did not want to say goodbye to.  Forget your brawny Fabio romance heroes; I’ll take Doc over them any day!  Doc Holliday was the epitome of a southern gentlemen driven to survive his debilitating tuberculosis – and he has the wittiest and most charming lines in the whole book.  Wyatt Earp steals your heart with his illiterate sincerity and desire to serve unilateral justice.  Kate Harony, Bessie Earp, and Belle Wright are, each one, very different and yet very independent women trying to tame a wild country full of unreliable men.  I even fell in love with a young black boy who would have been cast as an extra if the story were a movie set, he had so few of his own lines.  And the writing – oh, the writing!  There are some authors who make music with their words, and Russell leads the pack.  Doc is one of the wittiest, engaging, and heart-breaking novels I have read all year.  It’s a book that I’d recommend to my dad as easily as to my grandmother, the themes are so universal.  This is one of the few books that I’ve actually bought this year and it was COMPLETELY worth it!  I’m just sad I didn’t get a physical copy so I could start handing it out to my fellow book-junkies.

Notable Quotes:

“Yes, sir! Yes, they do,” Doc said, suddenly hot. “Every one of them has a story, and every story begins with a man who failed her. A husband who came home from the war, good for nothin’ but drink. A father who didn’t come home at all, or a stepfather who did. A brother who should have protected her. A beau who promised marriage and left when he got what he wanted, because he wouldn’t marry a slut. If a girl like that has lost her way, it’s—because some worthless no-account—sonofabitch left her in—the wilderness alone!”

Doc sat back in his chair and stared out of the window for a long time. “Bein’ born is craps,” he decided. He glanced at Morg and let loose that sly, lopsided smile of his. “How we live is poker.” Doc looked away and got thoughtful again. “Mamma played a bad hand well.”

Sit in a physician’s office. Listen to a diagnosis as bad as Doc’s. Beyond the first few words, you won’t hear a thing. The voice of Hope is soft but impossible to ignore. This isn’t happening, she assures you. There’s been a mix-up with the tests. Hope swears, You’re different. You matter. She whispers, Miracles happen. She says, often quite reasonably, New treatments are being developed all the time! She promises, You’ll beat the odds. A hundred to one? A thousand to one? A million to one? Eight to five, Hope lies. Odds are, when your time comes, you won’t even ask, “For or against?” You’ll swing up on that horse, and ride.

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?, Washington Post, The Magic Lasso


★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★★ Characterization

★★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★★


2 responses

  1. Thanks for linking to my review! Coincidentally, I am giving away a copy of DOC today on my blog!

    Happy Reading!
    Jill =)

    July 13, 2011 at 12:39 PM

  2. Pingback: Book Review: #65 – Doc by Mary Doria Russell « Let's eat, Grandpa! Let's eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)

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