The Midwife of Hope River

The Midwife of Hope River
You might get a load of firewood in payment, or you might get a chicken, or, you may not get paid at all. But, it won’t bother you because most of the rural Appalachia mining community is out of work, and you understand times are hard.

You might get called out after midnight, and you may have to ride a horse to the patient’s home across a rickety mountain bridge.

Patience Murphy is the midwife in this novel, the prequel to “The Reluctant Midwife” that I finished recently, by the same author. After finishing that one, I found this one on my library e-reader website and just had to read it!

A novel about what it is like for a very inexperienced midwife who has had little training, Patience is the only person in the area to assist in childbirth (besides an over-eighty woman who has cancer and is looking for a replacement). Patience has had a tragic life who has had to change her identity and find a new life. Her backstory comes out slowly throughout the book, as she learns to deal with the hurts of her past.

This novel opened my eyes to what times really *were* like for many mining communities who were at the mercy of the coal barons of the time, when unions were just beginning to succeed (and not without bloodshed). It’s hard for us who live in the twenty-first century to understand what it could be like to live without running water or a Walmart ten minutes down the road, or to have the threat of the Ku Klux Klan hanging over us, should we happen to be white and merely want to befriend a black person.

“At last we are getting produce from the garden, small peas that we eat without shelling, lettuce, and chard. We enjoyed Hannah’s bacon and we fish in the river, but we are down to a cup of flour, the sugar is gone, and our money jar is empty except for a few last coins. I stare at them now, scattered on the table, as I pull on my town shoes.

“Man does not live on fish and berries alone, or woman either,” I announced to Bitsy this morning. “I’m going into Liberty. Maybe I can find work. If we don’t get paid for the deliveries, we have to get money somehow. I also have the last few birth certificates to turn in for a quarter apiece at the courthouse. That will be something.”

I enjoyed reading this book! The author did a good job of ‘getting inside’ Patience’s head, writing about the joys and sorrows of her life and the many varied stories of successful, and sometimes not, successful, childbirth. Somehow the author was able to make the situations ‘come alive’ for me in this book, and the characters have real joys and fears, anger and anxiety, and each situation was believably written! (note: there are some descriptive scenes of childbirth).

“The Midwife of Hope River” takes on some challenging themes (racial prejudice, wife abuse, mining unions, the Depression, just to name a few!) and is written realistically and sympathetically. I am looking forward to reading more by Patricia Harmon!


About Theresa

I live in an old farmhouse in upstate New York (no, *not* the big city!) in the country with my family, two dogs, two calves, and two horses. I love to cross stitch, quilt, read, and look at needlework blogs :) and I love coffee *and* tea!
This entry was posted in Appalachian fiction, coal mining, midwifery and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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