Sara Donati introduced readers to cousins Anna and Sophie Savard, both physicians working in 1880s Manhattan, in her 2016 novel The Gilded Hour. In Where the Light Enters, Donati continues the sweeping family saga centered on the cousins, their careers and the people who inhabit both their lives. Sophie has returned to the city after her husband's death in a Swiss sanatorium. As she grieves, she debates returning to her obstetrics practice and begins planning a scholarship fund for young women of color who want to study medicine. Meanwhile, Anna is dealing with the loss of three children, Italian refugees, whom she had hoped to adopt. Anna's police officer husband, Jack, calls both women in to consult on a complex case involving multiple homicides of pregnant women.
Donati's cast of characters is large, encompassing Sophie's multiracial family, Jack's sprawling Italian clan and various friends and acquaintances. Among them is Québécoise medical student Elise Mercier, whose assistance proves vital to solving the case. Donati brings the chaos and color of 1880s Greenwich Village to life, while emphasizing the injustice of a system that leaves women's health largely in the hands of men. Much more than a simple mystery plot, Where the Light Enters touches on the complexities of marriage, the bonds of family (both by blood and by choice), the pernicious effects of drug addiction and the challenges Anna and Sophie face as pioneering female doctors. Readers of historical fiction will find Donati's richly detailed narrative both satisfying and thought-provoking. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams