Thursday, December 13, 2012
Honest, moving, and beautifully detailed, Patricia Harman's The Midwife of Hope River rings with authenticity as Patience faces nearly insurmountable difficulties. From the dangerous mines of West Virginia to the terrifying attentions of the Ku Klux Klan, Patience must strive to bring new light and life into an otherwise hard world. -- William Morrow
I picked up THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER: A NOVEL OF AN AMERICAN MIDWIFE by Patricia Harman at this year's BEA, and everything about this novel captured my attention. I loved the cover and I've always been drawn to stories, both true and fiction, about midwives. I can't really say why it took me the better part of six months to eventually read this novel, but I am certainly glad that I did so. I really enjoyed this heartwarming story that celebrated the strength of women.
THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER is Patience Murphy's story about her life as a midwife in Appalachia during the Depression. Patience acts a midwife to those who can't afford doctors -- which means that she rarely gets paid; however, she is devoted to helping women and babies in need. Fortunately, she is a skilled midwife and seems to know exactly what a woman needs to help get her through childbirth
While Patience makes herself available to women at all hours of the day and night, she actually lives a pretty secluded life. The reason for this is that Patience (or Elizabeth as she used to be known as) is wanted for murder. It appears that Patience has successfully fled from her past; however, she still has difficulties getting close to anyone for fear of being found out.
But that's just the beginning of the difficulties that Patience faces in THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER. She tends to births which aren't always happy for the families. In addition, she faces mine accidents, a lack of food and money, and even a visit from the Ku Klux Klan. Throughout all of these troubles, Patience shows an inner strength and resilience that is just amazing.
THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER was a great read for me. As I mentioned earlier, I love books about midwives and this novel is another one that I can add to my "list." I always think it's ironic that I'm so drawn to stories about midwives since I'm the least likely person to ever do a natural birth nevertheless a home one. I guess I like to live vicariously through the brave female characters in the story. Anyway, THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER didn't disappoint with its share of birthing stories. Since the book was told in Patience's voice, there were many tales of childbirth (both the happy and the sad) as well as her brief journal entries which gave the highlights.
Another aspect of this story which I really enjoyed was the character of Patience. She was a great character and extremely interesting. I would even go so far as to say that I found her to be inspirational. There is no doubt that Patience had experienced a great deal of heartache during her lifetime, but she never gave up. She just kept plodding along. And more importantly, she was devoted to helping those who were less fortunate even when she knew that she might never see a cent from her work. I couldn't help but root for her, in her birthing experiences as well as her relationships.
I also really liked the historical aspects of this story. While I admit that I was probably more interested in the mothers and Patience, I was pleasantly surprised by how much information was included in this story. There were details about the Depression, labor unions, coal mines, and the KKK that I found to be extremely interesting. My relatives are from the coal regions of Western Pennsylvania and my grandfather even worked in coal mines for years, so I can't get enough information about these things. It's apparent that Ms. Harman did a great deal of research on this time period.
And finally, I loved THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER because it celebrated women. On the surface, the story was ultimately Patience's, and I really enjoyed her adventures. She was a fantastic character and I was very moved by her story. However, this novel also embraced the strength of all sorts of women -- from the woman who gives birth after losing her husband, to the woman who is abused by her husband, to the woman who has to deliver her dead baby, to a woman who devotes her life to helping others. I could go on and on. THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER shows readers just how incredibly strong woman can be; and for that reason, I thought this book was very special.
THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER would make a great book club selection, especially for female book clubs. There is a reading guide available with ten thought-provoking questions which will help generate discussion. Some of the themes you might want to explore include faith, loss, grief, guilt, friendship, love, sacrifice, and resilience.
Overall, I recommend THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER to fans of women's fiction. It's a beautiful story that will entertain you and touch your heart.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.