REVIEW: The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
A wonderful depiction of a midwife’s life in 1930s Appalachia.
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
Category: Historical Women’s Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 28, 2012)
Rated 4 out of 5
Format: Print read, eBook also available
Patience Murphy becomes a midwife by default when her husband dies and she moves in with two women who give her shelter. Taught the trade by one of the women, Patience ends up as the only midwife in rural West Virginia when her friend dies. Death has become fairly constant in her life, having lost family, friends, the two men she loved as well as her only child, so helping other women is what Patience needs for her own healing. Times are hard after Prohibition and a thirty-six-year-old widow can barely make it alone. Midwifery is what she can do while she hides out from the law for her past misdeeds. Can her secrets stay safe in this coal mining community?
The stock market crashed, not that Patience had any money invested but this means that businesses are failing right and left. No jobs equals no money to pay the midwife. Chickens, wood, coal or a quilt will be her best payments. Hiding out in the mountains is a good way to be anonymous but not always the most profitable. Patience takes in another woman’s daughter to teach her midwifing and to keep her company, per the mother’s request. The young woman has nowhere else to go. Patience is white and her new friend is black. Society isn’t pleased with this arrangement and the Klu Klux Klan is forming in West Virginia. Can a union defender and protector of equality not only survive this hard life but eventually be happy with it?
Throughout the book we meet her patients, her past and her future, getting a glimpse of the births through Patience’s journal which she diligently keeps. The people are a variety of race and poverty levels, some made recently poor by the stock market crash, others who have lived their whole lives poor, but all are rich in their faith and friendships, often providing for each other.
I really enjoyed Patricia Harman’s storytelling style. If you love Appalachian stories, THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER is fascinating and full of interesting characters. There is some romance in this book but it’s not at the forefront. Race, poverty and a mining community after a financial disaster is what takes center stage as Patience visits families who need her help, even when she isn’t sure what she can do for them. A realistic and hopeful story, even when you can’t imagine how anyone can be hopeful in some of these circumstances, makes for a down-to-earth narrative of America’s working class and one woman’s survival and happiness against all odds.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies.
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What’s on your TBR Mountain Range? Have you read any midwife books? What are your favorites?