Monday, October 26, 2015

Review: The Last Midwife

Summary: It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn't imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.

But everything changes when a baby is found dead...and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.

She didn't commit the crime, but clearing her name isn't so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that's dangerous. Invited into her neighbors' homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can't help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart.

With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it's worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now...especially since she's been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.

With Sandra Dallas's incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them. -- St. Martin's Press

It's been years since I've read a novel by Sandra Dallas, but I have always loved her novels and characters. She seems to really be able to capture the essence of the past, and her characters just stay in your heart after the last page of the book. After reading the description for her latest novel, THE LAST MIDWIFE, I knew I had to read it. I am drawn to stories about midwives, and it sounded like there was an underlying mystery too.

It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is a midwife in a small Colorado mining town who has been delivering babies for most of her life -- since she was around 10 years old! She has played a major role in the lives of the women of this community (and really the community as a whole) for decades, and she has delivered almost every baby born over the past 40+ years.

However, Gracy's life is turned upside when the unthinkable happens. A baby is found dead and the family is claiming Gracy killed it. Of course through the years, Gracy has lost some babies and mothers... but there is absolutely no way that Gracy would ever deliberately do harm to a child. As part of her job as a midwife, Gracy has seen and heard a great deal; and she's learned many secrets about the women in town.

Gracy has a kind of second sense when it comes to mothers and their deliveries, and she's pretty sure she knows what happened to the baby; however, she isn't sure she wants to reveal the family's (or her own) dark secrets. As a result, Gracy might end up protecting others at the expense of her own freedom.

I absolutely loved THE LAST MIDWIFE! It's Sandra Dallas and her storytelling abilities at their best. I loved the characters, especially Gracy, and I also appreciated how Ms. Dallas brought this small Colorado mining town and it's inhabitants to to life. In addition, the book definitely showcased the strength and power of women which will make it winner for book clubs.

I decided to feature THE LAST MIDWIFE as part of Mystery Mondays, but it isn't a mystery in the traditional whodunit sense. However, there is a mystery surrounding this story about a midwife accused of murdering a baby. It's apparent to the reader that Gracy didn't murder the baby, and it's pretty obvious what did happen; however, the events surrounding the mother and child do have an element of intrigue. And there's even a surprise or two in store for the reader at the end of the novel!

I was drawn into Gracy's story from the get-go. I loved how the book revealed her past through flashbacks and they really helped to complete the character. Gracy was an extremely complex character who provided a service to the community. For the most part, she was deeply appreciated; however, there were some in the town that questioned her abilities. When she was accused of the crime, the town was divided over whether she was guilty; and there was even some dissension on whether midwifery was the right way to go for childbirth. I thought Ms. Dallas did a good job of showing the divisiveness of the town as well as the debate between the past and the future of medicine.

As I mentioned earlier, THE LAST MIDWIFE would make a fantastic book club selection. There is a  reading guide available with ten interesting questions. Because the book delves into the subjects of motherhood, midwives, and the resilience of women, I do think many women will relate to the story. Some of the other themes you might want to explore include friendship, marriage, secrets, sacrifice, and love.

THE LAST MIDWIFE is a touching story about the power of women and what they are willing to do to protect those they love. Highly recommended for fans of women's fiction.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

Wow! Books like this don't generally appeal to me but you've made this one sound really good.

Kay said...

I have loved several of Sandra Dallas' books over the years. This one sounds perfect for a winter read later.