Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Review: The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
Patience Murphy is a midwife working in Appalachia during the 1930’s. Times are rough, money is scarce and Patience is running away from her past. She struggles with confidence and worries that she’s not capable of delivering babies on her own, the midwife she assisted has passed away, and Patience is on her own. Her clients have little to no money, which doesn’t help Patience when she needs to feed herself, at the same time, she can’t say no to a mother and child in danger. While Patience begins to settle into her new life, she’s always looking over her shoulder and waiting for her past to catch up to her.
A brief bio mentions that Harman herself started out as a midwife, and it clearly shows in her writing. I’ve read other books that had midwives as the main character, but this one has become one of my favorites. The historical aspect really sets this book apart. The Great Depression left everyone rich and poor in desperation. Patience needs to feed herself and keep her house warm, but she can’t turn away a delivery and risk harming anyone. Each time she delivers the baby, she has no idea if she’ll get any pay. She hopes they’ll at least give her some food. Patience doesn’t have the heart to say no.
Patience’s back story really adds to the tension of the novel. Readers are slowly told why Patience had to change her name and run. Her childhood was great, and then everything was ripped away from her. The social angst during this time period plays an important role in novel. When Patience decides to help out a young black girl, and possibly train her as a midwife, the racial tension amongst her clients becomes an issue. Their safety is questioned.
I thought the pace of the book was great. It never felt like it dragged on, and I never wanted to rush ahead. This is one you’ll want to curl up with, and hope for no distractions. When you do have distractions, you’ll try to ignore it. The Midwife of Hope River is a captivating and stunning read. Harman’s prose is beautiful and engaging, readers wouldn’t think that this is her first novel. I really hope she intends to publish a second book. Overall, I highly recommend this one.