• Paperback: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 3, 2015)
The USA Today bestselling author of The Midwife of Hope River returns with a heartfelt sequel, a novel teeming with life and full of humor and warmth, one that celebrates the human spirit.
The Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. Luckily, Nurse Becky Myers has returned to care for them. While she can handle most situations, Becky is still uneasy helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy.
Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness-as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer Dr Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.
But becoming a midwife and ushering precious new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.
Full of humor and compassion, The Reluctant Midwife is a moving tribute to the power of optimism and love to overcome the most trying circumstances and times, and is sure to please fans of the poignant Call the Midwife series.
Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs.
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I won’t deny that my love of the BBC series Call the Midwife is what sparked my interest in The Reluctant Midwife, but the reality is that, except for the fact that midwifery is central to both stories, there really aren’t many similarities. The TV show, while based on memoirs, is quintessentially English, and set in the 50s and (now) 60s. This novel is a decidedly American story, and takes place during the Great Depression.
You might think that such a period would lead to a depressing story, but you’d be wrong. While Patricia Harman’s characters do experience hardship and loss, the entire novel is imbued with so much hope and humor that at times it was difficult to mute the Annie soundtrack running through my brain while I was reading it. Which is not to imply that it’s at all childish, because it’s not.
What this book is, is a very honest, human story about two couples who share the predisposition to be healers. The first is Becky and Isaac, although they’re not really a couple in the romantic sense. The majority of the novel is written in first person, from Becky’s perspective, so we come to know her best. There were times when all I wanted to do was tell her to stop being such a prude, and get her hands dirty, but that only means I was invested in her story.
Isaac, on the other hand, is the now-mute doctor Becky once worked with, and now cares for, and while his presence is a bit murky at times, ultimately he becomes at least as real as his female counterpart, his quiet contrasting beautifully with her strength and forthrightness.
The other couple, midwife Patience and her husband the local vet. This novel is actually a sequel to Harman’s previous one, The Midwife of Hope River, in which told Patience’s story. I haven’t read the first book, but I didn’t feel like I was missing key information, and I like that. I’m sure my enjoyment would only have been greater if had.
While a story set in the 30’s could easily be depressing and bleak, this book was neither. Instead, it showed us people who persevere in the face of hardship, and find solace in love and laughter. I liked that the author gave us a sense of place (Appalachia) without locking us into the landscape of a specific existing town, letting us fill in the blanks ourselves, and I really liked the way she gave us hints of the politics of the day, and of events outside the immediate environs of this tale. An oblique reference to the midwestern prairie, for example, reminds us that the Dust Bowl was a concurrent event.
Populated by flawed, feeling, incredibly real people, this novel was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting read. The resolution of Becky’s relationship with Isaac was a bit predictable, but in no way reduced the integrity of the rest of the story.
I’m eager to go back and read the first book in this series, and I’m equally excited to explore Harman’s other work, which I hope includes another entry into this series.
Goes well with Pork and beans, homemade cornbread, and fresh lemonade.
Wednesday, March 4th: Bibliotica
Thursday, March 5th: Broken Teepee
Friday, March 6th: Kritter Ramblings
Monday, March 9th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, March 10th: A Novel Review
Thursday, March 12th: Life Between Reads
Monday, March 16th: Unshelfish
Tuesday, March 17th: A Patchwork of Books
Wednesday, March 18th: Buried Under Books
Thursday, March 19th: FictionZeal
Friday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads