The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

13508021This book was recommended to me by a friend about a year ago. It’s a story about a midwife who is working in the Appalachian region during the Depression. Most people have come upon hard times, and she goes from patient to patient without knowing if she will even get paid. To make matters worse, the only ‘white’ doctor in town decides to leave the area for somewhere more prosperous. She ends up losing one of her patients, because the husband is too stubborn to take her to the ‘Negro’ doctor.

The stories of the labours and deliveries are always interesting, but the book examines so much more; it looks at the racial tensions that exist in the community, as well as the atrocious working conditions of the miners and their families.

Patience also has her own past to face. She has run away from her old life and taken on an alias. At the age of 36, Patience has lived a full life; she’s been an orphan, a laundress, a wife, a wet nurse, and an anarchist. She and her late husband were heavily involved in the miners’ disputes in West Virginia, and ended up in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.

17321690As Patience hides from her past, and scrapes out a living delivering babies and trying to raise food on her little farm, she slowly becomes part of the community; sometimes coming out on the wrong side of what is considered acceptable in the 1930s. She also develops a kind of a friendship/partnership with her gruff and mysterious veterinarian neighbour, a few times accompanying him on his calls as his assistant.

Put all these elements together, and you’ve got a good story. There is a second book, but I don’t know yet if I will be reading it – I kind of liked the way the first one ended. But, you never know…

No matter who they are or what they’ve done, when you hear someone’s story you see him or her differently.

Has anyone read any good midwife books lately? What are some of the best books you’ve had recommended to you by a friend that you might not otherwise have picked up?



14 thoughts on “The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

    • Naomi says:

      It really was good, but I still couldn’t help but worry that I wouldn’t like it as much as she wanted me too. I think I did, though!
      It’s also interesting to read books that your friends love – it gives you a different perspective on them and their interests. So, I would say that it’s still worthwhile to read your friends’ favourite books, even if the book doesn’t blow you away.

  1. Karen says:

    This kind of reminds me of how my friend recommended The Birth House to me years and years ago and I still haven’t read it. This sounds like a fascinating book; I’m always interested in books that deal with race, and I love reading about strong women. I’ll have to add it to my ever-expanding TBR pile!

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Winnie! It reminds me of Cutting For Stone, in which one of the brothers took on that same condition (fictional, though).

    • Naomi says:

      Since I read this one, she’s recommended a few more to me, and they all sound good! I wish I could get to them faster, but there are just so many books!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s