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The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Appalachian Midwife Novel Interesting, But Sluggish

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Although Patience Murphy hardly feels qualified to call herself a midwife, she's been delivering babies in Hope River, West Virginia, ever since her mentor died two years ago.  With the Great Depression raging across the country, hitting Appalachia especially hard, Patience receives much thanks for her services, but little payment.  Still, she can't deny a woman in need.  As times worsen, with no money available for fuel or food, Patience fears she will slowly freeze or starve to death.  In the meantime, she helps as many new mothers as she can, assists her handsome neighbor with his veterinarian practice, and protects her black roommate, Bitsy, from hateful Klan members.  It's a difficult life Patience leads, but a satisfying one.  As long as she keeps her real identity hidden, it's also a relatively safe one ...

It's evident from The Midwife of Hope River, Patricia Harman's first novel, that she has plenty of experience with midwifery, but not a lot with fiction writing.  The tale Harman tells here is interesting and authentic, true; it's also slow, episodic, and plotless.  It reads more like a doctor's journal than a story with a defined beginning, middle, and end, which makes sense since Harman's previous two books are both memoirs.  I'm not saying I didn't enjoy The Midwife of Hope River—all in all, I did—it was just a very slow read for me.  Intriguing, but sluggish.  Considering how long it took me to get through the novel, I'm not sure I'll bother reading the book's sequels.  Harman's memoirs, though?  I'll definitely give them a chance because it's obvious from The Midwife of Hope River that the author has had some fascinating experiences delivering babies in poor, rural communities.  I definitely want to read more about that.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the BBC television show Call the Midwife, which is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a couple of F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Midwife of Hope River from Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

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