This historical novel, written by a certified nurse midwife, follows the fictional life of Patience Murphy, a midwife in Appalachia during the Depression of the 1930s. When the story begins, she lives alone in a house she inherited from her late friend and mentor, the midwife who taught her how to deliver babies. This is a time of great strife when businesses are failing, unions are uprising, mines are caving in, blacks are persecuted, and nobody has the money to pay for Patience’s services. She is surviving mostly on the meager food and supplies donated by her customers. As Patience’s client list grows, she gets to know the stories of the people around her and gains a new roommate: a black woman who’s put out on the streets by her former employer because he can no longer afford her. Along the way, we also learn of Patience’s tragic past as an orphan, widow, wet nurse, and more. She also makes the acquaintance of the local vet, who will come to play a more prominent role in her life as time passes.
The Midwife of Hope River hauntingly captures the mood of the time, when fear, hunger and lack of hope dominate the landscape. But there’s also joy to be found in Patience’s growing relationships with those around her and, of course, in the innocent babies she brings into the world. Her past threatens to break her at times, but she rises stronger than ever when she realizes that loss is a part of life, and that everyone has their own burdens to bear. When they lean on each other, life is still sweet and filled with promise. The Midwife of Hope River is one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes, but all opinions are 100% my own. This post includes my Amazon affiliate link.