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.
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.