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Where Light Comes and Goes.

Medicine and more with Dr. Abby Wilmore, this time at Yosemite National Park.

When I reviewed the first book in Sandra Cavallo Miller’s Dr. Abby Wilmore series, I remarked how unusual it was for a university press to publish popular fiction. But I also noted that Miller’s first novel, The Color of Rock, was filled with information about astronomy, condors, geology, and canyon country medicine. Her second Dr. Abby Wilmore tale, Where Light Comes and Goes, is equally well-informed. To read a Sandra Cavallo Miller novel is to be constantly surprised by what you’re learning. Each page not only moves the action along but also fills the reader’s mind with scientific facts and penetrating descriptions of the natural world.

YellowstoneAbby began her sojourn as a clinician in a national park setting on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Where Light Comes and Goes takes her from Arizona to Wyoming, where she is tasked with setting up a new medical clinic near Old Faithful. Abby hates to leave her beloved canyon—and her beloved colleague, Dr. John Pepper—but decides a summer in Yellowstone is too enticing to miss. She’ll have a chance to manage her own routine and her own space. Plus, she’ll have a chance to experience a totally new environment—erupting geysers and scalding mud instead of canyon walls and burning sun.

The new setting also gives Miller an opportunity to bring a fresh array of information to her readers’ attention. Abby’s amateur interest in astronomy is a constant, though the meteor showers of a Wyoming summer sky differ distinctly from Arizona heavens. What is new, of course, is the Yellowstone geology, with its magma pulsing just below the surface of the park and with uneven earthquake rumblings almost daily. New, too, are the bison, which play a prominent role in Where Light Comes and Goes’ storyline. Miller brings in the old, also. One day Abby and Gem, her nurse, visit the Museum of the Rockies to see dinosaur bones and learn all about what Gem calls “triceratops central.” Obviously, the reader also learns. The medical issues differ in Wyoming: burns from stepping too close to boiling ponds and scrapes from venturing too close to wildlife in the park, more than sunstroke and heat exhaustion. There seem to be dozens more traffic accidents at Yellowstone as inattentive drivers stop to gawk at wild creatures or wild eruptions of steam. As I noted when I reviewed Miller’s first novel for “Bookin’ with Sunny,” this author has a genuine knack for pictorial descriptions. Those bison and bears, those steam vents and geysers, almost jump off the page. That’s one of the treats of reading either The Color of Rock or Where Light Comes and Goes—the experience of feeling like you’re really there, in that national park, enjoying its treasures. Even indoors is a vacation paradise, inside the walls of the venerable Old Faithful Inn, for example.

Miller’s characters are also enjoyable. An eccentric receptionist and a no-nonsense ex-military nurse await Abby in Yellowstone, plus a host of ailing patients, each carefully represented and playing a crucial bit part in the novel’s progression. And a couple of bad guys add spice and a dash of excitement to Abby’s life. Dr. Pepper appears as well, flying up from Arizona for some welcome R&R. And indeed, Where Light Comes and Goes is welcome R&R, with its refreshing play of light on the reader’s mind and across the Yellowstone landscape.  –  Ann Ronald

Also available by Sandra Cavallo Miller: What the River Said; No One Should Live Here; The Color of Rock.

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