As a midwife working in rural poverty during the Depression, Patience Murphy's only solace is her gift: the chance to escort mothers through the challenges of childbirth. Just beginning, she takes on the jobs no one else wants: those most in need-and least likely to pay. Patience is willing to do what it takes to fulfil her mentor's wishes, but starting a midwife practice means gaining trust, and Patience's secrets won't allow her to let anyone in. The Midwife of Hope River beats with authenticity as Patience faces seemingly insurmountable conditions: disease, poverty, and prejudices threaten at every turn. 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 cruel world.
©2013 Patricia Harman (P)2013 AudioGO Ltd
Patience Murphy, a midwife in Union County in West Virginia in the late 1920s, has a vital role to play in her community but owing to her past, she pretty much keeps herself to herself and doesn't connect with anyone beyond the professional level. Written in the first person narrative, in a conversational style (journal entries mostly), Patience often alludes to her life being a difficult one and to having to keep a low profile. Over the course of the book (covering roughly a year from autumn 1929 to autumn 1930), the reader learns more and more about past events and the shadows these have cast into Patience's life, and why she is the way she is.
The more fascinating passages to me, however, were the descriptions of the economic climate of the time, the rising tension, anxiety and desperation among people, the racist attitudes but also the way neighbours and community members looked out for one another and lent a helping hand where they could. This is the sort of historical fiction that makes history come alive for me.
I also happen to be a huge fan of the midwifery profession, having delivered two babies with the professional, competent and caring support of midwives, a doctor standing by merely as a formality. I loved reading the various birthing stories, good and bad, though sometimes the acute physical pain experienced by the fictional characters was so vividly described that I found myself breathing and panting through it as instructed by the midwife. Vicarious labour pains I'd rather not experience again. Thankfully, I haven't suffered the loss of any babies, born or unborn, or else this would have been a brutal book to read.
Finally, I should point out that I fully credit the audio book narration by Anne Wittman for the fact I enjoyed the book as much as I did. Her voice is really versatile, and I loved her different accents, too. Not that I am in a position to comment on authenticity when it comes to West Virginia accents, but it sounded brilliant to me, and even her howling on behalf of sone of the labouring women didn't make me cringe. Very impressive performance!
It was read with an integrity that made all the characters come to life and the book depicted, for me, the starkness of life and, sometimes death, in this period. It was never gruesome despite the blood at times and I found it very interesting.
"Enjoyable story of 30s mid-America"
emotional, realistic and hopeful
The description of the main character shooting her own husband by accident
Excellent narration with different accents bringing the story and the situations described to life
Fighting against prejudice is never easy but there is hope yet!
I was so drawn into this story that I couldn't wait to get back to listening whenever I could!
"This has got to be best book I've ever listened to"
It is such a great book I will enjoy listening to it again in a few months.
I loved the midwife because of her humanity and the way she helped all of her patients through the pain and trails of child birth.
I loved her voice and she made the book come alive. I just didn't want it to end.
It was a very sad time in American history and this reflected in how I felt.
I hope there will be a sequel soon.
I've not read it in print...
All of it, there was nothing I didn't like.
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