Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Midwife of Hope River

It seems nearly every historical fiction book I read is measured against one of my favorite books ever, The Help.  I loved that book so much and am sure I have elevated it on a a bit over time, but have found it difficult to find other books that match it. And yet, as I read The Midwife of Hope River, I found myself drawn into this story, totally enjoying Harman's tale.

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman is paperback novel set in the 1930s.  Patience is a midwife in a small community where she is eking our her existence as the Depression makes it difficult for any family to find a way to pay her for her services.  Patience is also hiding from her past a bit.  Through her own recollections we learn over time a bit about the two different men she loved and lost as well as the child she lost.  Her life has not been easy. 
Yet, Patience keeps on delivering babies for the local residents.  She forms a few friendships - with the veterinarian, a home health nurse- and even agrees to take in one new mother's hired girl when the mother admits they can no longer afford to keep her on.  This somewhat quirky crew help Patience form ties to the community and feel as though she has made a home for herself.
Atlhough set in the 1930s, race is still an issue, much to Patience's disbelief.  Her friendship with Bitsy who she has allowed to move in with her has definitely caused a stir in the community. I was amazed at the various stories of childbirth (and also thankful that I read this book after I had children already since the stories do depict accurately what childbirth entails) as Patience chronicled each birth in a notebook.  

Harman is a great storyteller, including a few surprises about her characters along the way - all caught me a bit off guard and increased my love of this story.  The Midwife of Hope River isn't receiving nearly the fanfare I think it deserves, and I hope book clubs will select this book to read and discuss since there is plenty to enjoy and talk about.

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