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The Orphan Mother: A Novel by Robert Hicks

The Orphan Mother: A Novel

by Robert Hicks

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*Note: I had no idea there was a prior novel to this story while reading The Orphan Mother. That being said, I also can feel it can also be read as a standalone.

The Orphan Mother is a historical novel set in the time of the civil war. The main protagonist, Mariah, goes on a journey of truth after her son is brutally murdered.What I appreciated most about the novel is that Hicks keeps the book realistic and accurate to the historical period. He doesn’t sugarcoat the high racial tensions after the Civil War and throughout the book there is a lot of animosity and tension in the air. Even though slavery is over African-Americans are still expected to be unseen, and the cities are highly segregated.

Mariah is quiet, skillful, and is set in her ways. She is a widowed midwife and has to deal with the death of her son after he perishes in a violent mob. As she slowly recovers from her son’s death, she feels as if she has lost everything because she is now all alone. Seeking the truth behind her son’s death and trying to put together the pieces of the mystery fills her life with a purpose once again. While Mariah is independent she is equally stubborn and doesn’t know how to break free from her old life. This inner turmoil is played out throughout the entire novel.

The other leading character named Tole is a free man from New York who is trying run away from his past. He chases down his demons down with alcohol while trying to make a better life for himself in Franklin. When he is drug into a job as a hit man, things start to spiral out of control, and soon after he ends up taking on the role of a vigilante because of his overwhelming guilt.

There’s not too much I can say about this book without giving much of the plot away. I will say that I loved the suspense that builds up as the mysteries unfold. Overall, I enjoyed the story’s pacing, smooth writing, and the character development.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. ( )
  Rlmoulde | Nov 25, 2017 |
Women tend to define themselves by the roles they play for other people. A woman may be a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, wife, mother and add many more. Add to that slave and midwife, you have the story of The Orphan Mother. She has no name throughout the beginning of the story.
She finds the title of mother when she has her son during her time as a slave. In this she finds a deeper meaning to her life because she is something more important to someone who gives her joy. She loses the title of slave when she becomes a free woman and doesn’t know what to do with the gap that is left behind.
She sees her son grow into a freeman show speaks up. He is politically active and people seem to listen to him. She doesn’t want to hear him speak because she is afraid for him. He is her son and she has specific ideas of who he is. Yet somehow through this time of not knowing what she is, we hear her name. We know of her more intimately as she becomes more to herself than to others. She knows she is a midwife and has helped give birth to many in her town. This is her source of pride.
When her son is taken from her violently, she has lost another more important piece of herself. She struggles to find a name for what she has become. A child who loses a parent is an orphan but what is a parent who loses a child? There is no neat little box to put it in but the pain is everywhere. She decides to take revenge and find herself.
This doesn’t end well, as those in power don’t want her to gain strength over them. She finds others to help her cause even though she does not see the greater powers at work and no one can be trusted. Invisible strings are being pulled. It’s all so complicated and interwoven. Who can she trust, who can’t she trust?

My personal aside. It is very difficult to find the line between who I am and how others see me. I am a mother and an educator beyond that I am not always so sure. What I like is often buried beneath the needs and desires of those around me. My children and husband come first. They are soon followed by my parents. Then and only then, if there is time and energy, I can think of myself. What I need first, then what I want. Needless to say, I don’t often find that time. Lately I try more, I don’t like the thought of completely loosing my self and who I really am. It is time to remind myself what I like and what I want beyond others. ( )
  reemsf | Jun 6, 2017 |
Robert Hicks became an author in 2006 to tell the story of Carrie McGavock in Widow of the South. The Battle of Franklin (Tennessee), one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, took place near the McGavock home. Their large house was taken for a hospital and McGavock and one of her slaves, Mariah, personally nursed the wounded and dying day and night.

After the war McGavock learned the neighboring property, where almost 1500 soldiers were buried in shallow graves, was to be cultivated. She had the soldiers "unburied" and created a cemetery for them on her property. She spent the rest of her life caring for the graves and was, according to some, obsessed with "her soldiers".

Now Hicks has written a stand alone novel about Mariah that takes place after the War. Unlike the former book, it is not based on actual history. Mariah is living in Franklin in her own house and her son, Theopolis, has grown to manhood. Theopolis, the town's talented cobbler, is smart, ambitious and interested in politics. Attributes that some Franklin residents do not admire in a former slave. Theopolis decides to speak at a political rally. As he begins, a riot breaks out and he is murdered.

Theopolis' death is almost beyond Mariah's bearing. She becomes determined, regardless of the risk to herself, to find out who the person was that killed her son.

From the jacket: "The Orphan Mother is an unforgettable story of a woman's heroic struggle in the face of overwhelming adversity and the undeniable strength of a mother's love."

That pretty much says it. Hick's writing, there was another unrelated novel between these two, has matured but character development is not his strong suit. It's the story that carries both of these novels, and the stories are really good. ( )
  clue | Apr 1, 2017 |
Engrossing historical fiction from the author of The Widow of the South. Set in 1867 Tennessee, this examines the repercussions when the son of Mariah, former slave of the Widow of the previous novel, is murdered during a political gathering. We are taken deep into the lives of former slaves and slave owners, Freedmen, greedy powerful men, outwardly powerless white women, and people who want to fashion a true Reconstruction. Powerful work. ( )
  phyllis.shepherd | Mar 13, 2017 |
Post civil war unrest. Excellent story, a little slow at the beginning, but more than made up for it. It really brought you into the life of Mariah, the death of her son, and the justice for her loss. Highly recommend. ( )
  myers3 | Feb 9, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446581763, Hardcover)

An epic account of one remarkable woman's quest for justice from the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country.

In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically-minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead?

Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including Robert Cannon, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past. Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a "master storyteller" (San Francisco Chronicle).

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 22 May 2016 18:02:19 -0400)

In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock the "Widow of the South," has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But changes are sweeping through the South, the town, and for Mariah. When her grown son Theopolis decides to speak at a political rally in town, a riot breaks out and he is murdered as he approaches the podium. Mariah must confront her own difficult truths-- and the conspiracy that resulted in her son's death may determine the fate of Tennessee itself.… (more)

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