I have a new heroine. She lived over a hundred years ago and bravely traveled from cultured turn-of-the-century Boston to the frontier town of Calgary, Alberta at the tender age of sixteen in order to recover from pleurisy. Katherine Mary O’Fallon not only adjusted to life on the edge of civilization, she pushed deeper into the Canadian wilderness wrapped in blankets on a dogsled led by her new husband, Canadian Mounted Police sergeant Mike Flannigan.
Mrs. Mike, first published in 1947 after interviews with the main character and extensive research, provides some wonderful romantic stomach flutters and broad grins at the couple’s courtship and early married life. But like the territorial movement deeper into the unknown, the story dives deep and quick into the harsh realities of wilderness life in the early 1900’s. The authors, Benedict and Nancy Freedman, did not spare the reader. Somehow I managed to survive this story without a completely shattered heart.
Mounties were the ultimate multi-taskers filling the offices of policeman, priest, and doctor in the remote outposts of the Canadian wilderness. The Flannigans are called on again and again to succor the dying, bind up those wounded by wild animals, and face their own tragedies. Kathy Flannigan shows the reader the miracle of starting over while keeping her heart open to love and faith. Like Job of the Bible, she doesn’t curse God and die. Not all of the book’s characters manage this which underscores the miracle of Kathy’s life.
I confess that I have spent much of my suburban life trying to avoid pain and whining at any adversity. The life of Kathy Flannigan humbles me, as does the story of the authors who faced illness and setbacks of their own. Journalist Peggy Orenstein, writes of the Freedmans in her article entitled “The Story of My Life”: “As children of the Great Depression, they never much trusted wealth or stability.” (O Magazine, December 2007). Orenstein read the novel to her husband and then asked him what he had taken away from the book. “That’s easy”, he said, with a half smile “Life is hard. But love is strong.” http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Mrs-Mike-Changed-My-Life
We still have much to survive today. While childhood diseases such as small pox or diphtheria are prevented by modern-day vaccination, American lives are still at risk due to cancer, natural disasters, traffic accidents, addiction, mental illness, and suicide. Are we overcomers who can go on – seeing the light at the end of our tunnels and trusting that God is good?
“Originally published in 1947, Mrs. Mike was a main selection of the Literary Guild, serialized in the Atlantic Monthly, condensed in Reader’s Digest, appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, and translated into twenty-seven languages.” (Introduction, p. xxvi, Mrs. Mike, published 2002 by Berkely Trade)
Kathy’s true story is the basis for the novel which means some events were fictionalized by the authors. Not much research is available on the real life characters of Katherine and Mike Flannigan; although accounts state Sergeant Mike Flannigan died of a ruptured appendix in 1944. Kathy remarried and died in 1954 in Calgary, Alberta. Authors Benedict and Nancy Freedman passed away within the past three years.
I hope I whetted your appetite to read this lyrical, poignant novel for the first-time or over again to be inspired to truly live and love.
Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleural membrane which surrounds the lungs and results in symptoms of chest pain when inhaling or exhaling, shortness of breath, cough and fever.
Lesser Slave Lake is located in the current-day province of Alberta, Canada