Early on in The Dreamer and the Doctor, the reader emerges from a gorgeous description of North Idaho as Swedish prospector John Leiberg must have found it — wildflowers, grazing deer and silver-rich geological formations — to arrive at a rather startling place: Leiberg, married with two sons, is the object of a young woman's tenacious affections.
The woman in question does, in fact, get her man. As spicy as this beginning sounds, however, Spokane author Jack Nisbet's account of their subsequent marriage is actually the story of a quiet and devoted partnership between two public-minded people. John Leiberg, a self-taught naturalist, became a special field agent for the U.S. Forest Commission and was one of the first to speak out about the need to preserve public forest lands. Carrie Leiberg practiced medicine at a time when house calls were made on horseback and disease (diphtheria, measles) ran unchecked.
Together the two built a life on Lake Pend Oreille: Carrie running an orchard and her medical practice while caring for their son and contributing to scientific journals; John documenting everything from mosses to petroglyphs all over the Pacific Northwest. In Nisbet's hands, their story is relatable — consisting of long periods of hard work interspersed with moments of discovery, peril and doubt. In the end, this is the story of two flawed, extraordinary people who contributed to our understanding of the Northwest, both of their time but remarkably forward-thinking.
Jack Nisbet will read from The Dreamer and the Doctor on Thursday, Nov. 1 7, at 8:30 pm at Auntie's, 402 W. Main Ave. Sheri Boggs is a librarian with the Spokane County Library District.