Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Review: The Reluctant Midwife: A Hope River Novel (Hope River #2) by Patricia Harman

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.

Paperback, 432 pages
Expected publication: March 3rd 2015 by William Morrow & Company
Terri's Thoughts

**I received a copy of this book from the publisher William Morrow via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The book has just been published**

This is the second novel in the Hope River series following The Midwife of Hope River and I had not read the first one.  I carefully researched before requesting this to ensure that I could read it as a stand alone and I was correct.  That being said for those who have read the first story the character of Patience is still a key character in this story so those who want more of her will get it with this book.

As is my tendency I am going to try to not discuss the plot but more of my thoughts on how the book made me feel.  The highlight for me was the backdrop of when the story took place.  Deep in the middle of the great depression I was fascinated with how people were struggling and surviving on little to no resources.  The story spoke of the government programs in place to try to help with the unemployment rate and how communities attempted to help their own and how people would do almost anything to be able to put food on their table.  This appealed to me even more than Becky's story.

I also had a strange fascination with Blum.  The question ever lingering as to if he will ever snap out of his inner prison.  What were his feelings for Becky?  He was probably my favorite character which is kind of funny as he had very few words to say.  The dynamic between Blum and Becky was an interesting one.  It is almost like in hos wordlessness that he was carefree temperament to Becky's uptight personality.

Now this story is title The Reluctant Midwife so you know there will be some birthing scenes.  As someone who has only every has fur babies I did find them a little disturbing.  I don't know why but everything about child birth has always made me feel a little light headed so I did struggle with the passages that described it.  Others may not.  Also if I had to add a little critique I would say that a lot of the scenes were descriptively the same.  I got a little sick of reading "mmmmmmmmmm" every time a mother had a contraction.  There are other words/description to describe the pain.

Ultimately this was a very interesting story.  As previously mentioned the era in which it took place was what captured my attention the most.  I do think I will go back to read the first story as the character of Patience was an interesting one and I can see how her story could be a great read.

About the Author

Patricia Harman has spent over thirty years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center.

She spent over a decade in the sixties and seventies in her wild youth living in rural communes in Washington (Tolstoy Farm), Connecticut (The Committee for Non-Violent Action) and Minnesota (Free Folk). During the Vietnam years, she and her husband, Tom Harman, traveled the country, often hitch-hiking, as they looked for a place to settle. In 1974 they purchased a farm with a group of like-minded friends on top of a ridge in Roane County, West Virginia. Here on the commune, they built log houses, dug a pond, grew and preserved their own food and started the Growing Tree Natural Foods Cooperative.

It was during this time that Patsy attended her first home birth, more or less by accident. "Some people are destined," she has written. "I was staying at a woman friend's commune when she went into labor and I ended up delivering my first baby." Soon after, Harman traveled to Austin, Texas to train with a collective of home-birth midwives. When she returned, she became one of the founding members of The West Virginia Cooperative of Midwives. Her passion for caring for women and babies led her to become an RN as the first step in getting licensed as certified nurse midwife. In 1985, with her children, a yowling cat and her husband she traveled north, pulling a broken down trailer to begin her training at the University of Minnesota where she received her MSN in Nurse-Midwifery.

For the past twenty years, Ms. Harman has been a nurse-midwife on the faculty of The Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University and most recently West Virginia University. In 1998 she went into private practice with her husband, Tom, an OB/Gyn, in Morgantown, West Virginia. Here they devoted their lives to caring for women and bringing babies into the world in a gentle way.

When, in 2003, the cost of liability insurance for Obstetrics sky-rocketed from $70,000 a year to $110,000, the Harman's decided to give up deliveries. Though many loyal patients grieved the loss of their favorite mid-wife/physician team, the change in life style gave the author time to begin writing her first book, The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir.

Patricia Harman still lives and works with her husband, Ob/Gyn Thomas Harman, in Morgantown, West Virginia at their clinic, Partners in Women's Health Care. Though she no longer attends births, she provides care for women in early pregnancy and through-out the life span. She brings to this work the same dedication and compassion she brought to obstetrics."

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