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!
"Back to a gentler but tougher era."
I loved this book. It was a beautiful incite into midwifery at a time when life was really hard for many of the women who are the subjects in this book. 1930's America and the Depression is biting hard, Patience uses her skills to help mothers through childbirth often with no financial recompense and in difficult circumstances. Inter racial tensions were also fraught and Patience has to tread a fine line between upsetting the white community and also becoming accepted and trusted by her black neighbours who needed her skills. From a medical point if view there are also some interesting incites into the acceptance of the professionalism of midwives at that time, for instance it was illegal for midwives (but not doctors) to internally examine a woman in labour to determine how advanced her labour is. Bizarre! Great book!
Very interessting insight to a midwifes job in the days gone by. At the same time it also places the job of the midwife into the historical context of its day, With well known historical events, such as the black/white issues of USA in the start of the 20th Century and the miners life and their battle for rights in the same era the story comes to life and becomes believable and (maybe) true.
You get to follow the midwife herself and get a feeling of how she has become who she is, formed by the historical events of the time. The book itself also gives an interesting insight to womens life and struggle only 100 years ago.
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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