Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman

Patience Murphy is a midwife in Appalachia in the 1930's, but before this, she has lived a much different life, under the name Elizabeth Snyder.  She was a showgirl, a mother to be, a wife, a rebel.  Her path has led her to a small rural area of West Virginia, where she attends the births of families, rich and poor, struggling with the changes in the world and the economy.  Through it all, Patience dreads the day when her life as Elizabeth will catch up to her.

I thought this book was, in a word, stunning.  I absolutely loved everything about this story.  First of all, the setting was simply fascinating to me, having lived in or near many of the places mentioned.  I loved hearing about Pittsburgh in the 1920s and 1930s, truly fascinating stuff.  And having grown up in the Appalachian foothills, the culture described in this book is so familiar to me, despite the setting being decades before I was ever born.  And the story itself, the life and trials of a midwife in those times, it was simply fascinating.

I loved Patience.  I thought her character was so warmly and richly developed.  We learn her back-story as we go, but it is done so seamlessly that you feel as if you have always known her.  While she is far from perfect (and well aware of that fact), she is a very endearing character, and you really touched my heart.  I love the wonder and awe she has about life and death, despite having seen so many births.  She made me, as a reader, really consider the miracle of childbirth, particularly as it was decades ago.

There is something so personal, and comforting, in the way this book was written, that I often forgot it was fiction, and not the diary of an actual historical person.  The book really captivated me.  There were no tricks or gimmicks, no overly flowery prose, just honest to goodness great story telling.  This was a tremendous debut novel, written with so much heart; as a reader, I could not help but feel so connected to this story, simply because of the storyteller's voice.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours.  See the rest of the tour here.  The author is also doing a physical book tour, and you can view that schedule here.

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