Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Follow Your Dreams (1961)

Follow Your Dreams
Marjorie Holmes, il. James Talone (cover)
1961, The Westminster Press

"But I say again and I can't say it too often - veterinary medicine is no place for a girl!" He had said it once too often.

17-year-old Tracey Temple is determined to be a veterinarian, like her idol Dr. Jane Baldwin, despite the hostile reactions of male vets, including the one who's been asked to address her junior class for Career Day. Tracey objects passionately to his sweeping dismissal of women, sadly aware her classmates think the whole argument a huge joke and herself a funny thing.

Tracey's thrilled when she lands a summer job with Dr. Baldwin, but quickly succumbs to first love when she meets the cranky vet school dropout Whitney, whose aloofness and misanthrophy perversely attract her just as loyal neighbor Dudley's quiet devotion goes completely unnoticed. The situation becomes even more interesting when Whitney's gorgeous, charismatic former girlfriend Diane comes to work at the hospital, and Tracey's childhood buddy Jeff arrives in town. Both men fall wildly for the alluring Diane, whose description is a triumph of a certain sort of horribly perfect female:

For one thing, she was so petite... Her hair was a soft, silver-gold puff. Her skin was honey-colored. And her face, in all its distinctive, perfectly arranged proportions, was the kind of face people turn to gaze at just an instant longer on the street.... As if this wasn't enough, she emanated a kind of golden radiance. Plainer people lighted up in her presence, as if basking in a glow. She wasn't particularly witty, but whatever she said, in a soft little voice of surprised amusement, made you want to smile... Then, when you were rearing back in sheer self-defense, when you realized you'd have to hate her a little bit too, if only to survive, you noticed something else; when she turned, with a swish of her embroidered peasant skirt, and started across the office, you noticed the slight but definite limp.

Tracey manages to learn how to handle the various situations, including jealousy of her own prematurely widowed mother, who is as feminine and dainty (though sensible and a good mother), and who depressingly reminds Tracey of everything she is not. It's mentioned a few times that she's really dealing with people a few years older than herself; Whitney, Diane and Jeff are all in their early 20s, and Tracey's somewhat stuck when it comes to experience or ease. And unlike many heroines, she's too genuinely innocent to utilize that asset with the boys.

Although Whitney does his time as the overbearing male know-it-all, he's also tormented by Tracey and Diane, and suffers great moroseness over his on-again-off-again engagement to the fickle beauty. There is one gruesome scene where he watches Tracey revel in helping a dog deliver a large litter of puppies, then informs her of a very nasty fact that may have just about passed muster in 1961 but is unrelentingly awful in 2009. And something about the setup of that scene makes it impossible to like him, though Tracey seems to get over it quickly.

About the author
Born in Storm Lake, Iowa, she graduated from Cornell College in 1933. Married twice, she had four children and taught writing at colleges. She was most famous for her religious-themed books, particularly three novels following the lives of Mary, Joseph and Jesus - Two From Galilee, Three From Galilee, and The Messiah. She wrote an autobiographical book, a nostalgic look at her childhood in Iowa, You And I And Yesterday.

Obituary in the Des Moines Register
University of Iowa collection of papers

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