Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt
Say hello to Maggie McLain, an unlikely Southern debutante in 1960's Memphis. Gawky, restless, smart and opinionated, young Maggie isn't cut out to fill the patent leather pumps of a Southern Belle. When she ditches Cotton Carnival ball to save a drowning pup, Maggie realizes her destiny.
Is the land of mint juleps and Elvis ready for a woman veterinarian? Maybe not, but Dr. Maggie McLain sets out to prove otherwise.
Over the years, Maggie earns the devotion and respect of crusty farmers, snobby horse breeders and doubtful pet owners throughout western Tennessee. She's an inspiration to up-and-coming women vets, a loving wife to her proud husband, a patient mother to her demanding kids, and above all, a champion to sick and injured animals.
When loss and grief knock Maggie off her pedestal, she falls hard. It may take a miracle for her to understand that sometimes even the best doctor must struggle to heal her own heart.
Source: CK2's Kwips and Kritiques
If you loved James Herriot's (All Creatures Great and Small, etc.) books, you will love All God's Creatures. If you love Southern women's fiction with its rich regional focus and characters that grow through life's lessons, you will love this book.
Source: Amazon.com Review
Reviewer: Heidi L. Marshall, Librarian
The veterinarians and animals that they care for were wonderful to read about. ...Honestly I cannot think of anything negative to say about this book. The human interest in this book also holds some interest for all ages. The reader gets involved with the lives of Maggie, her husband, children and friends. This book is unique and will be a tough act to follow. I savored every word, laughed and cried. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves all of God's creature.
Source: The Best Reviews
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Change the gender and place Dr. Herriot in the south to give readers a perspective of this tale. Yet that description feels inadequate as Dr. Herriot never dealt with the sexism from her family, teachers, peers, and clients that Maggie and Eli contended with on a recurring basis. ALL GOD'S CREATURES is a delightful account of a woman pioneering in a field that is now loaded with women doctors (My animal doctors in Stockbridge, Georgia has more females than males on staff). Carolyn McSparren salutes those who started the 1960s equal rights movement that has led to females today coming a long way baby.
Did I want to be a Cotton Carnival princess? Hardly. My parents had struggled to send me to a private school with most of the girls who were princesses of old, established country clubs, that had been sending princesses to Carnival for donkey's years.
I knew most of the boys—those scions of wealth and privilege Mother wanted me to court, but none of them had ever asked me for a date. They thought I was weird, while I thought they were stupid and shallow.
Ditto the girls. But rich and beautiful. Who doesn't envy rich and beautiful when you're eighteen?
Anyway, the one stipulation about the costumes the court had to wear was that they all had to be made of cotton. Not drip dry, not wrinkle free—your basic iron-it-and-starch-it-every-whipstitch cotton.
I'm sure Daddy couldn't easily afford either the day and evening costumes I had to wear as a member of the court, nor the even fancier dress I was supposed to wear to "my party," the ball given by my sponsoring club for the entire Carnival Court. He never complained, bless him.
The other sticking point was that every princess and lady-in-waiting had to be accompanied either by a prince charming or a lord-in-waiting to dance attendance on her. Possibly other Carnival ladies got to pick their own boyfriends. My escort, however, was chosen for me.
He was one of those scions, so Mother tossed me at him the way you might toss a bone to a hungry Rottweiler.
He was not a happy choice. First of all, he stood only an inch taller than I do, so when I wore pumps with heels, I towered over him. Second, poor Giles had been born with no discernible chin and had little piggy eyes set much too close together.
Since he had gone away to college and was four years older than I was, I had never actually met him before. We agreed to meet at the old Fortune's Jungle Garden on Poplar to get to know one another. I intended to make the best of it, I really did.
Within five minutes, I discovered that his political and religious beliefs had been handed down intact from Attila the Hun. Within five minutes of meeting me, he informed me that women were much happier in a subservient relationship to a strong man, and that held true for the "colored folks" as well. Both civil and women's rights were nothing more than a minor impediment to the forward march of history's dominant, preferably southern, white male.
If not for Mother, I would have walked away and never looked back. But I was still being a good girl. I did tell him he was a Neanderthal idiot. We hated each other from that moment on.
One of the few good things about being a Carnival Princess was that for the week I was lent a brand-new yellow Cadillac convertible to drive with a sign across the back that read "Cotton Carnival Princess." The bad thing was that I couldn't remove the sign.
Tuesday afternoon Giles, the Prince of Darkness, and I drove together all the way down to the tip of President's Island on the Mississippi River. He hated having me drive. That was a man's prerogative.
I parked the convertible, and we clambered aboard the gigantic barge that had been fitted up with lights and fireworks for the trip up river to the foot of Beale Street. Once we landed, the Carnival King, an older married man wearing more gold braid than a Paraguayan dictator, declared Carnival open. Fireworks, music, party down.
Then came the first of several parades at which the court got to ride in open wagons called 'tally-hos'. We would wave and throw candy to the peasants who lined the streets. I was about as happy riding the tally-ho as I would have been on a tumbrel in the French Revolution.
After opening night on the float, the prince and I arrived at the staging areas for hospital visits and parades in separate automobiles. It says a good deal for Memphis that I thought nothing of driving home alone at two in the morning in an open convertible with a sign the size of Arkansas across its trunk.
My special Princess party was to be held Thursday night at the Nineteenth Century Club, an elegant old mansion on Union Avenue in the Garden District. Mother wasn't a member, but she had a dear friend who allowed us to use her membership.
There was no place to dress at the club, so I dutifully decked myself out in my ball gown—a white cotton eyelet affair with a Scarlet O'Hara hoop and four crinolines under it—at home. Mother had made me practice sitting down in the hoop. If I didn't smash it flat at the optimum moment it would flip up in front and bare my underwear to the waist.
No matter how warm and sunny May had been to that point, it always rained during Carnival. The night of my party rain was sluicing down in buckets, so Daddy put the top up on the convertible for me. Mother had left hours before to dither about the food and flowers. She expected The Son of Dracula to pick me up in a limousine with champagne and roses. Daddy and I let her think that.
Instead, I squeezed myself into my whalebone corselet, ducked under my crinolines and hoop, fidgeted while Daddy fastened all the buttons down the back of the dress, shoe-horned myself into my convertible and drove north down Cleveland Avenue from our house in the Garden District.
The area of Cleveland close to Union was lined with seedy apartments that rented by the week. I generally drove through that area ten miles faster than the speed limit, but that night I could barely see to navigate. I hugged the right-hand side of the road even though the water was deeper there. The car lights reflected against the curb to provide me an idea as to where I was driving.
If I hadn't been close to the curb I'd never have seen the movement. I have no idea why I didn't assume it was a raccoon trying to cross the street. All I saw was something black and shiny scrabbling in the light my headlights cast.
The gutter was running with water. Whatever the thing was, it was being swept closer to the storm drain. A rat? No, too dark a lump. And two things, not one.
I slammed on my brakes, rucked up crinolines and hoops above my knees, and jumped out practically into the path of an eighteen wheeler. God knows what he thought I was, but I'll bet he went home sober that night.
I didn't consider the rain. I had to keep those things from disappearing down the storm drain.
One was fighting hard to stay afloat. The other was just floating.
I reached down, grabbed one, clutched it to my bosom, and snatched the other just before it slipped out of sight. The one against my chest lay inert.
The one in my hand, however, opened its little pink mouth and gave a pitiful imitation of a howl.
I shook the inert one. No response. Dead? Or unconscious from water and cold? I couldn't tell. The other pup was obviously still alive and fighting to stay that way. He scrabbled against my hand with sharp little claws.
"Oh, no you don't," I said. I clutched both pups with one hand, smashed my hoop flat with the other, dove into my car and slammed the door barely in time to avoid a wall of water thrown up by the wheels of another eighteen wheeler.
As his lights swept across my rear view mirror, I caught a glimpse of my face. God in heaven!
My beauty-shop-arranged French twist was hanging down around my face, and I could barely see for the water running off my eyebrows into my eyes.
My fancy satin pumps squished against the floorboards as I felt for the pedals.
I checked my skirt. The bottom eight inches of my ruffles felt sodden, although the crinolines underneath had somehow stayed dry.
"I'm dead," I said aloud. For one frantic moment I actually considered heading west across the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge and driving across Arkansas until I ran out of gas. I must have been crazy. How could I show up at my party soaking wet? Mother would be mortified.
I would be toast.
The dashboard clock said I had an hour before I was supposed to be presented to the court. Despite the warmish weather outside, I turned the heater on full blast and aimed it straight at my shoes and skirt.
At least one of the pups seemed to love the warmth. He snuggled into my lap.
I couldn't run away from my responsibility, either to the pups or to my mother. Those little critters needed professional help. Fast. I didn't dare take them to the party. I'd never be allowed to leave once I actually showed up.
I'd never had a pet. Mother thought dogs were dirty and stank up the house, and my father was so allergic to cats that one whiff could send him into anaphylactic shock and twenty-four hours in the emergency room.
That meant I had no idea where to find a veterinary clinic.
I turned right onto Union Avenue and wracked my memory. I vaguely remembered the sign for a veterinarian's office east of the Helen Shop where I'd bought my dress. If I found it quickly, I could dump my charges and race to the club in time for Mother to make repairs before the court showed up for my presentation.
I could see it now. 'Your Majesties, may I present Princess Drowned Rat?'
I groaned. Mother would never be able to hold up her head in society again. One mad impulse on my part and the Evans family would be social pariahs forever.
But then again, Mother wouldn't die. If I didn't get this shivering little pup some help quickly, it would.
Bingo. I saw the sign. A veterinary clinic. As I looked, the lights that shown through the glass front door flicked off. I peeled into the parking lot, grabbed both pups and sprinted for the door just as someone inside started to turn the key.
"No! Stop! Please open!"
He smiled, but shook his head.
"Look!" I held up the pups. "Help me."
He opened the door and stared at me. "Young lady," he said, "Do you generally dress that way?"