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The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an…
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The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife (edition 2012)

by Patricia Harman

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2614543,716 (4.09)36
Member:yourotherleft
Title:The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife
Authors:Patricia Harman
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2012), Edition: Original, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, historical fiction, Great Depression, midwife, West Virginia

Work details

The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife by Patricia Harman

  1. 10
    The Birth House by Ami McKay (saratoga99, vancouverdeb)
    saratoga99: Similar time-period Canadian debut historical fiction.
    vancouverdeb: Both books are about midwifery in the early 1920's ,1930's. Both also tackle social issues.
  2. 00
    The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories by Sarah Orne Jewett (cammykitty)
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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Patricia Harman’s writing is so vivid and authentic that I had to remind myself that the story was only fiction.

The Midwife of Hope River is a compelling historical fiction novel that takes place in the 1930s, in the coal mining communities of Union County, West Virginia.

Elizabeth Snyder, aka Patience Murphy, is a 36-year-old widowed showgirl; hiding from the law in the rural hills of West Virginia. Patience learns midwifery from Mrs. Kelly and Mrs. Potts, the only two midwives in the County. But when they both died, Patience found herself alone with only her apprentice, Bitsy, a young girl she took into her home and befriended, to assist her. The story pulls at the reader’s heartstrings as it follows these two women into poverty-stricken homes and into the homes of mothers in the midst of labor. The reader will also find their emotions skyrocketing and plummeting as they witness Patience and her assistant struggling to keep both mother and child alive during prolonged and complicated births.

Patience Murphy would have loved to have had some assistance from Dr. Blum, the local physician. But Dr. Blum only treated families who had the means to pay for his services. And he refused to go into any of the homes that didn’t have running water and electricity; the very same homes that Patience and Bitsy often found themselves in. Payment was rare from these impoverished families. If they were paid, it was usually in the form of a meal, a chicken, or wood to heat their home. But most of the time it was just a hug and a thank you.

Even though slavery no longer existed in West Virginia, prejudice, segregation, and racial hate crimes still did. Patience discovered this first hand when she found white supremacists setting fire to her fence and threatening to rape her along with her black apprentice, Bitsy. Neighbor, good friend and local veterinarian, Daniel Hester, saw the fire in Patience’s yard and gathered forces to combat it and the men dressed as the KKK.

Patience held a warm and tender fondness for Daniel Hester, the man who always seemed to be there whenever she needed help. Patience, in turn, would assist him with his veterinarian calls. Although the two were not romantically in love, their bond of friendship was strong and ran deep within each other’s heart.

Patience Murphy would eventually find that the care she so freely gave to others would come to her in the form of support and friendship. This friendship would be her saving grace when her troubled past came knocking at her door.

I found The Midwife of Hope River to be riveting from the very first page. Patricia Harman draws from her vast experience as a midwife. She paints accurate and vivid pictures of what women experience during normal and complicated deliveries. I had to remind myself that The Midwife of Hope River was only fiction because it read like a true story, with realistic characters, dialogue, and situations. Although the book has a thread of grief and sadness running through it, readers will find themselves smiling at the many humorous situations Patience finds herself in.

I would highly recommend reading The Midwife of Hope River. It’s a magnificently written, fascinating, and difficult to put down book. It’s a story that will stay with the reader long after they have finished the last page.

~5 out of 5 stars~ Review by Peg Glover ( )
  Peg_G | Mar 30, 2015 |
Running from the law, Patience Murphy sets out as a midwife in the poverty-stricken Appalachian region in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash. She takes care of those who can't afford a doctor, regardless of race and regardless of the type of payment, if here is one. She also takes in a black servant girl who becomes her partner and friend. This idea doesn't sit well with the Klan. ( )
  creighley | Feb 4, 2015 |
It's the early years of Great Depression in West Virginia – where the poorest of the poor struggle to survive. Midwife Patience Murphy has inherited the role of midwife among them. Poor as she is, Patience takes in Bitsy, a black woman who has just lost her job with one of the wealthier families in Hope River. The two of them soon are close as sisters and Bitsy becomes indispensable to Patience as an associate midwife.

The Midwife of Hope River is the second novel I’ve read by Patricia Harman, both set in Hope River and featuring many of the same characters. They’re both gentle books about strong women and the men they love. Readers are allowed to glimpse into the lives of the women Patience and Bitsy help through childbirth. Nearly all the families are living in grinding poverty, but most of the mothers are surprisingly cheerful, joyous even.

The Midwife of Hope River is an easy read, engaging and well-written, and with no pretensions. It was hard to put down and I breezed through it. ( )
  NewsieQ | Nov 22, 2014 |
This a novel which begins in the 1920's and goes into the Great Depression. It is the story of a young woman, who, through a set of circumstances, loses her husband and then miscarries their child. She ends up being a wet nurse and when she loses that job she flees and takes refuge with a midwife, who becomes her mentor. Eventually, Patience inherits the "job" upon the death of her mentor. This book is about her trials, tribulations, and triumphs. I liked this book because of its broad spectrum. The setting is a small mining town in Appalachian West Virginia. Included in this tale are the struggle of the unions, the hardships of coal mining towns, the KKK, and yes, a bit of romance. Very enjoyable and informative ( )
  tess_schoolmarm | Aug 8, 2014 |
The Midwife of Hope River left me with mixed feelings. I was fascinated with the birthing stories, Patience’s life as a midwife during the Depression, the union theme, and the evolving interracial relationships. I didn’t care for the way Patience’s back story was told in bits and pieces. Still and all, I recommend this book. ( )
  JoStARs | Jul 14, 2014 |
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Epigraph
Most of my life I've felt like I was dreaming. Now and then I wake up, sometimes for months, sometimes minutes. I'm a character from a play, and I can't tell if I'm making it up or if a great puppeteer is making me dance.

- From the private diary of Patience Murphy, Midwife , Wild Rose Road, Liberty, West Virginia, U.S.A 1929 - 1930
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" How long do you think that my baby's been dead?" Katherine turns toward me, and I can tell that she's still crying.
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Book Description

Midwife Patience Murphy has a gift: a talent for escorting mothers through the challenges of bringing children into the world. Working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression, Patience takes the jobs that no one else wants, helping those most in need—and least likely to pay. She knows a successful midwifery practice must be built on a foundation of openness and trust—but the secrets Patience is keeping are far too intimate and fragile for her to ever let anyone in.

Honest, moving, and beautifully detailed, Patricia Harman's The Midwife of Hope River rings with authenticity as Patience faces nearly insurmountable difficulties. 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 hard world.
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Midwife Patience Murphy has a gift: a talent for escorting mothers through the challenges of bringing children into the world. Working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression, Patience takes the jobs that no one else wants, helping those most in need--and least likely to pay. She knows a successful midwifery practice must be built on a foundation of openness and trust--but the secrets Patience is keeping are far too intimate and fragile for her to ever let anyone in. Honest, moving, and beautifully detailed, Patricia Harman's The Midwife of Hope River rings with authenticity as Patience faces nearly insurmountable difficulties. 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 hard world.… (more)

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