One Glorious Ambition


Title: One Glorious Ambition
Author: Jane Kirkpatrick
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Published: April 2, 2013,
Pages: 400


Dorothea Dix, who was born to an unavailable mother and an abusive father, longs simply to care for and protect her younger brothers, Charles and Joseph. However at fourteen she is separated from them and sent to live with relatives to be raised properly. In her uncertainty and loneliness, she realizes that she can’t accept to social expectations imposed on her gender and she desires to accomplish more than finding a suitable mate.

Dorothea yearns to fulfill God’s purpose in her life and she sons discovers that she has a talent for teaching an writing. She soon published books and opens a school and her students bring her a joy and fulfillment she has never experienced before. They become like family to her, but long bouts of illness end her teaching career and send Dorothea adrift in the sea of uncertainty once again.

All of that changes when she makes an unexpected visit to a prison housing the mentally ill. Seeing the conditions they live in ignites a fire inside of Dorothea and sets her on a journey to change their living conditions and treatment. That journey sends her across the country, into the halls of the Capitol, and leads her to befriend presidents and lawmakers. Her journey was always to care for the “least of these”.

When Dorothea Dic discovers her calling will it help change the lives of others or will her efforts do nothing? Will Dorothea’s compassionate crusade change the lives of the mentally ill for the good or will her efforts result in the conditions getting worse for them? Is this Dorothea’s one glorious ambition and will she stay with it or will she leave it for a husband and kids?

I’ve never read anything by Jane Kirkpatrick before, but this book caught my eye and I had no idea Dorothea Dix even existed, much to my shock and dismay. So I was excited to pick up this one and learn about a lady that gave her entire life to helping people. The life of this lady amazes me and I believe the Lord used her greatly to lessen the appalling conditions the mentally ill were in during the time before the Civil War. I’m so happy I got to learn about this extraordinary woman.

The book is stuffed with historical facts and imagery of prison conditions and I enjoyed learning about the various crusades going on in that time as well the sickening conditions of prisons for the mentally unstable. Plus the facts about Dorothea’s crusade allowed me to really learn about Dorothea and her compassion to the people who isn’t have a voice. That part of the book was great.

Dorothea is an odd creature without explanation during this book and that is a bad part of the book. Dorothea’s actions throughout the book made very little sense and her cold attitude portrayed on the book made it very hard to get attached to her. At times throughout the book Dorothea will wonder about her mental health and, at times, you can’t help but wonder too. I think maybe these odd behaviors probably would’ve made more sense if Dorothea had been more likable and it had been explained.

The way this story is written is odd too. It’s written in a biographical style but because it’s a fiction novel, it doesn’t really mesh well. Fiction is about imagination and the setup of this book didn’t really allow that, making this book drag on at times because of the lack of excitement in places. I would’ve liked to have seen a bit of creativity from this book and a bit of excitement, but I will admit that the writing style is unique and not something I’ve seen before. It just wasn’t what I was looking for in this novel.

I’ve never read anything by Jane Kirkpatrick before and though I didn’t love this book, I do like her attempt at uniqueness with the writing style and I think that makes me want to read more from her. Maybe her other books are more relatable and likable. I don’t really recommend this to anyone who isn’t interested in mental health or a fan of Dorothea Dix.

Overall, it’s a books filled with historical facts and images of the horrible conditions the jails the mentally ill were in and the writing style is unique but not a great mesh for fiction and Dorothea was a bit too odd to be likable. I give this book a two and a half out of five.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*