The Still Hunt: A Book Review of Jane Kirkpatrick’s “Something Worth Doing”

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“To move forward, she’d have to believe that something was worth doing no matter how it turned out.”

Compelling and thought-provoking, Jane Kirkpatrick’s Something Worth Doing presents a fictional but reality-based depiction of suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway. In all honesty, this is the first that I recall ever hearing about her, despite her decades of work toward women’s enfranchisement. Kirkpatrick mentions in her author notes that she chose to focus more on Abigail’s personal life, and this is what gives the book its distinctive tone, in my opinion. It actually took me much longer than usual to read, and I think that the complexities of Abigail’s character and the extraordinary details of her life’s journey are the reason. Even though she is clearly modeled after a famous historical figure, I have to credit Kirkpatrick with truly tapping into Abigail’s personality and lifting her from the pages of history—faults, assets, and all.

In a larger context, Something Worth Doing applies to struggles beyond that of women’s suffrage and women’s rights. Whereas most historical fiction includes a happily-ever-after preceded by a standard plot structure, this one diverges. The solemn tone throughout reflects the hardships of life, and particularly women’s lives, in the nineteenth-century, highlighting their inability to own property, influence laws through voting, and have careers outside the home and their subsequent status as dependent on the men in their lives. Many of the controversies in the novel remain prevalent today in some form, emphasizing how progressive Abigail and her compatriots really were. In my opinion, part of the reason that she was able to retain her reputation in the midst of her outspoken platform was in her approach: “My way is a ‘still hunt.’ Quiet coercion of men in power and men in general to be less frightened by women.” I was intrigued by her speculation about how equality between men and women would have been the result had Columbus landed on the West Coast, rather than the East, and her persistence through so many setbacks and even outright failures is quite remarkable.

Abigail’s story as told by Kirkpatrick invites reflection and contemplation, aided by engaging chapter titles and a set of discussion questions at the end of the book. While I admire Abigail’s tenacity and dedication to the cause, I also feel a great deal of sadness for her because she sacrificed tenderness and stronger relationships with her family on behalf of her suffrage work, a forfeit that she did choose willingly. She acknowledges as much by noting that “The married women and mothers working in the cause bore an extra burden to make sure their own daughters weren’t set aside for the larger effort. Advocacy had its price, even with occasional privileges.” Such is the case with any passion or cause that we take up today as much as it was a century ago, and thus this story resonates so profoundly. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Ben’s supportive presence so much, reminding us all that “Things didn’t always turn out well, as Ben proposed, but some things were worth doing, regardless.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

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