Clara’s Way is an historical fiction story set around the building of the Panama canal.
Clara’s brother works in Panama and the book opens with a letter admitting that he too ill to travel home alone. Clara is trained as a nurse, so she journeys from their small town in Ohio to rescue him.
She discovers appalling conditions, with mosquitos spreading malaria and yellow fever. Many of the workers live in squalor; fresh food is expensive and scarce, while the hospitals struggle to cope. Sadly, Clara’s brother dies within a few days of her arrival. She also catches yellow fever, but survives and is then immune from catching it again.
The nursing instinct in Clara and the impact of her brother’s death influence her decision not to return home. Clara decides to stay and support those fighting for better food, sanitation and working conditions. She applies to work in the local hospital; here she supports the medical officer in his battle to stop the spread of disease and to create a healthier working environment.
Much of this story is based on real facts and characters. I thought that the author created a good balance between fact and fiction; it made the book interesting, but also easy to read. Today the Panama canal is a famous passageway, but this story highlighted many of those who lost their lives during its creation.
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The year is 1904. Nurse Clara Tyler happily spends her days tending patients in rural Ohio. Her brother, who is working in Panama on the great canal, informs the family he must return home due to illness. Too sick to travel alone, he begs Clara to come and get him.
Anxious about going but determined to save her brother, Clara makes her way to the Canal Zone. She is quickly drawn into a web of heartbreak, controversy, and friendship that keeps her there.
When her father demands she return, Clara must decide where she belongs in this gripping tale about love and loss, courage, and the unexpected paths that shape our lives.