Friday, September 7, 2012

Midwife of Hope River

Coal mining West Virginia during the 1930’s is the setting for Patricia Harman’s engaging debut novel THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER. Patience Murphy is making a new life caring for pregnant women in Appalachia, as she reconciles her past with her new surroundings.

With the heart of Sandra Dallas, the intensity of Gay Courter and a nod to Barbara Wood the author integrates historical notes (the Great Depression, Appalachian coal mining, unions for miners and lack thereof, Emma Goldman the anarchist, Mother Jones, the Ku Klux Klan) into a seamless story about womanhood and the inherent risks of childbirth. She writes of a world where poverty, malnutrition and unequal access to quality healthcare can mean the difference between life and death. And while Patience’s story is the story of her female clients and their children’s births it is also her story.

Harman weaves Patience’s personal tale with gentleness and sudden details that leave the reader wondering how she can escape her own sadness to help her patients. Can the town vet be counted on as an ally for Patience? Can Patience reconcile her own past and move forward to be the midwife Hope River needs? Can she face the challenges for both her poorest and wealthiest of her clients? Can she train an apprentice?

An excellent book about the fragility of life, the miracle of birth, the community of neighbors, the Great Depression, love and healing and a woman’s journey to find her place in the world.  Beautifully written and a joy to read. 

A couple of other suggested books along this line are by Sandra Dallas -  any of her books are wonderful... personal favorites of mine are: Alice's Tulips and Whiter Than Snow.  From Gay Courter The Midwife and The Midwife's AdviceAnd from Barbara Wood Domina.