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Thoughts on The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

Title: The Midwife of Hope River [buy the book]
Author: Patricia Harman [website]
Pages: 400
Genre: Fiction
Date Published: August 28, 2012

Summary: 

Midwife Patience Murphy has a gift: a talent for escorting mothers through the challenges of bringing children into the world. Working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression, Patience takes the jobs that no one else wants, helping those most in need—and least likely to pay. She knows a successful midwifery practice must be built on a foundation of openness and trust—but the secrets Patience is keeping are far too intimate and fragile for her to ever let anyone in.

Honest, moving, and beautifully detailed, Patricia Harman’s The Midwife of Hope River rings with authenticity as Patience faces nearly insurmountable difficulties. From the dangerous mines of West Virginia to the terrifying attentions of the Ku Klux Klan, Patience must strive to bring new light and life into an otherwise hard world.

My Thoughts:

Let me say upfront that I coordinated the blog tour for this book. However, if I hadn’t liked it, I just wasn’t going to say anything about it at all. Take from that what you will.

Ever since Dave and I decided to try to get pregnant over two years ago, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with midwives. I wanted a home birth myself, but it wasn’t something Dave was comfortable with. My first exposure to home birth was Rixa’s planned unassisted home birth, which, of all the birth stories I’ve ever read, is probably one of the few that I’ll never forget. I poked around on her blog and I knew. I just knew. I wanted a home birth, and if I couldn’t have a home birth, then a natural birth in a hospital would suffice. So between the time that we started trying to get pregnant and the time that I had Ethan (about 10 months total), I started reading all about midwives and home birth and birth stories. I’m telling you this so you’ll see how perfect of a fit The Midwife of Hope River was for me. That I would end up reading it was a given.

I ended up reading this book about a week after finding out I had a blighted ovum — a pregnancy that ends in a miscarriage. While this seems like the last book I should have been reading at the time, I think it was perfect and helped the grieving process. I started reading it in the car on the way home from Lake Tahoe with my husband, and within the first two pages I was sobbing. It’s hard to find time to grieve when you’re running after a toddler, so if I had to do it while reading a book, well, then I’ll take what I can get.

I don’t think I’ll need a year to deal with the miscarriage, but this quote made my heart ache for moms who’ve had worse miscarriages than my own:

“Grief takes about a year,” Mrs. Kelly once told a young mother who had lost her son. “You have to get through each holiday, each new season. You will cry at Christmas and New Years and Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. You will suffer with the first daffodil, the first falling red leaves, the first snow . . . Each occasion, each new season will rip your heart out, then when there’s nothing left you’ll get better.”

This rang true for me:

I thought there were no tears left, but the well of sorrow never runs dry.

With a midwife as a main character, there’s quite a few birth stories, which I loved. I don’t think they’re graphic, but I’ve read and seen pictures of some pretty graphic stuff.

Themes include letting go of guilt, learning to adapt in a new environment, becoming comfortable in a career (who among us haven’t felt like an imposter when we are early in our careers and telling people what we do?), being the kind of friend that can both nurture and allow someone to fly free, and dealing with death and tragedy.

The book wasn’t perfect, though I liked it a lot. I did find myself trying to separate what I had read in the book from what I know to have happened in real life. That’s one of the best signs of a good book: that separating reality from fiction becomes difficult.

21 comments »

21 Responses to “Thoughts on The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman”

  1. bermudaonion(Kathy) ()

    I met Harman a few years ago and found her to be fascinating. She’s a midwife and an advocate for women. I’m looking forward to this book.

    [Reply]

  2. Corinne ()

    So, first, I am so sorry about your miscarriage. So sorry. I think we all mourn those losses in different ways but it’s still a painful reality. I didn’t mourn for a year but still, three years later, I think about it more than I’d thought I would.

    Second, I had three midwife-assisted, drug-free births in a birthing center and they were amazing. Those women, and I am not kidding, saved my life and the lives of my babies. Not a one of my births was “textbook” but those women and their confident and capable manner not only kept me from being afraid but also handled some really tricky situations with grace and competent care. This sounds like a book I’d like. If you are interested in reading more in this vein, I’d recommend The Midwife by Jennifer Worth, a memoir about a midwife in the slums of East End London. I really enjoyed it.

    [Reply]

  3. Melissa Sarno ()

    This book sounds fascinating to me and not like anything I normally read. And isn’t it amazing when a book finds you at just the right time? I’m sorry to hear this news, sending you love and hugs. xo

    [Reply]

  4. Beth F ()

    Of the many books I picked up at BEA, this was one I was really interested in. I’ll bump it up.

    [Reply]

  5. Word Lily ()

    Sorry to hear about your miscarriage!

    After my own experience, I don’t think I’m ready to read a book like this.

    [Reply]

  6. zibilee ()

    I’m sorry to hear about what happened, I know it can be an incredibly painful thing. I am hoping to start this book soon, and loved her second book, Arms Open Wide. If you get a chance, you might really enjoy that one too. I am thinking of you.

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  7. Audra ()

    Wow — this one sounds good — although it might be more that I appreciated the experience you shared reading it — what it evoked/touched in you. I’m so v sorry about your miscarriage — that’s one of my big fears, ack! — but at the same time, I find it helpful sometimes to read about things that touch on issues I’m stressed about. I’m glad you wrote about this book. Also, I love the cover.

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  8. Danielle

    I’m so sorry to hear about this Trish. I’m thinking of you.
    xo, Danielle

    [Reply]

  9. Help4NewMoms ()

    I’ll read this one based simply on the quotes you chose from the book! Treat yourself with extra care.

    [Reply]

  10. Laura Fabiani ()

    I’m so glad this book helped you to grieve because grieving is important to move on. I’m sorry about your miscarriage.

    [Reply]

  11. Jeane

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It does sound like a very good book- I read a lot of books about midwives that encouraged me to try and have a totally natural birth- no drugs or painkillers- even though I was too nervous (and my husband adamantly against) to try a home birth. This is one I hadn’t heard of; I’m going to add it to my list thanks to you.

    [Reply]

  12. patricia harman

    The quotes gave me chills too. And I wrote them!

    Isn’t that weird when you read something you wrote and it’s out of context and you think…mmmm…that’s pretty good.

    I am so sorry for your miscarriage, too. I have had three miscarriages and also three healthy boys.

    I’m glad you liked the book. It means a lot to me.
    Patricia (Patsy) Harman, midwife and author of The Blue Cotton Gown, Arms Wide Open and now The Midwife of Hope River.

    [Reply]

  13. Amy

    Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and sad part of you. I am very sorry to hear of your miscarriage, but glad to know you are finding avenues for grief. I know your strength of character will buoy you up to both try again and cherish what you have.

    I am not sure if this book content is up my alley but I always enjoy your thoughts on things. (I did however love “Gone Girl”.)

    Huge hugs to you and Dave….and many wet kisses for Ethan. Amy

    [Reply]

  14. Heather ()

    Trish, I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I don’t have any children myself, nor do I plan to in the near future, but this book does sound quite good. I’ll think about giving it a try even though I’m not sure I can relate.

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  15. Howard Sherman ()

    I give you a lot of credit for reading a book like this so soon after your own personal tragedy. The writer in me can appreciate the place, the time and the premise. The “typical guy” aspects of my personality, however, overrides my intellectual curiosity. That’s not a reflection on The Midwife of Hope River or Patricia Harman, of course. My impression should be construed as “a typical guy thing”.

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  16. Matt

    I’m sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I’m sure the memory of it is even longer. So it must be tough to have read this book shortly after you had some very difficult time in your life. Sometimes we find the most plausible reality in fiction, and that is why we can derive consolation from what we read. I’ll check this book out. Thank you for sharing. Wish you the best. 🙂

    [Reply]

  17. stacybuckeye ()

    Trish, I am so sorry to read about your miscarriage. I had one before I had Gage so I feel your pain. After mine it took me awhile to talk about it but once I did I was completely shocked by how many of may friends had had one too. Well over half. You are brave for sharing. Thinking of you and Ethan.

    [Reply]

  18. Kathleen

    So sorry to hear about your miscarriage. My heart goes out to you…

    I’m glad you found some things to relate to in this book. I like the setting of W. Virginia and for that reason alone would probably give this one a try.

    [Reply]

  19. jennygirl

    I’m very sorry to hear about your loss Trish. I’m glad that this book helped you through a difficult time.

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  20. Blogging Profits Unleashed

    I really enjoyed this book, it is an engaging and touching novel of human frailties and triumphs. Best book to read for all mothers like me. To Trish, I am so sorry to read about your miscarriage.

    [Reply]

  21. Lisa

    Oh, Trish, I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriage. It seems this book came into your hands at just the right time to help you. The paragraph about grief is perfect. I always say the same thing but never so eloquently.

    [Reply]

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