2015 Book 75: THE RELUCTANT MIDWIFE Review

The Reluctant Midwife: A Hope River Novel by Patricia Harman
ISBN: 9780062358240 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062358257 (ebook)
ASIN: B00KVI9DP4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow and Company

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. 

Becky Myers is used to hard work and a life filled with disappointment. She grew up with privilege as the daughter of a local physician in Vermont. She married a doctor before the Great War and continued to live in New England. Sadly, her husband was never quite the same after his return from the war and committed suicide shortly after his return home. Determined to start over, Becky received additional medical training and eventually settled in West Virginia as a nurse with the public health department. She then left West Virginia and moved to Virginia to become the nurse in the practice of a local physician. When that physician becomes catatonic and she has nowhere else to go, she and Dr. Isaac Blum return to Hope River, West Virginia. Becky thought that Virginia had been hit hard by the depression, but West Virginia and its residents are struggling. For the first time in her life, Becky is dependent upon the kindness of strangers to ensure she and Dr. Blum won’t starve. The one thing that Hope River needs is another midwife, since Becky’s friend Patience is unable to meet the demands of the county. Unfortunately midwifery is the last thing that Becky feels comfortable providing, but she soon realizes that she either provides this service or starves. 

First, let me say if you haven’t read The Midwife of Hope River then you need to read it as soon as possible. Is it possible to understand the action in The Reluctant Midwife without reading The Midwife of Hope River first? Yes it is, but simply trust me on this one and read The Midwife of Hope River before you read The Reluctant Midwife. Now that I have that out of the way, the second, and by far the most important thing is that I loved both of these books. I don’t mean these books are nice, even though they are, or just that they are well written, and again they are . . . I mean that Ms. Harman has the ability to craft stories with characters that are so vivid and colorful that you’ll want to know more about them. 

The action in both books is portrayed realistically and without any sugarcoating. Life in the early 1930s was hard for a large number of people across the United States. Unemployment was high and social services were all but unheard of in many areas. Even with the harsh, hardscrabble life for most of the people portrayed in both books, there is always an underlying sense of tenacity and hope. Becky gets to witness this first hand and quickly comes to realize that even though she and her former boss, Dr. Blum, may be experiencing difficulties, they are also blessed. Ms. Harman reintroduces the reader to many characters from The Midwife of Hope River, namely the midwife Patience, her husband the veterinarian Daniel Hester, their son Danny, the pharmacist and his wife, the grocer and his wife, the colored pastor and his wife, and more. The reader is also introduced to new characters like Captain Wolfe from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, a few mafia men from Pennsylvania, the young worker-turned-medic from the CCC camp, and more. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt even makes a cameo appearance. There is suffering and death interspersed with joyous tales of survival and life.

It was fascinating to read about Becky’s transformation from this somewhat formal and privileged woman to one that becomes more relaxed, slightly more informal, and willing to do anything necessary to survive. Becky’s change begins when she becomes the caretaker of her former boss, Dr. Blum. Her change continues as she becomes more relaxed and self-assured with her midwifery skills, and is completed when she eventually becomes the nurse and sole medical personnel at the CCC camp. Obviously I can’t tell you everything about the book because then you won’t need to read it. There are stories within stories in both The Midwife of Hope River and The Reluctant Midwife. Ms. Harman provides the reader with insight into the primary characters, Patience and Becky, by giving glimpses into their pasts as well as their present lives. Did I enjoy reading these books? Yes! I read both cover-to-cover with minimal interruptions or breaks. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, you’ll definitely want to read these books. If you think you don’t like historical fiction, trust me and read these books. I can only hope that there will be more stories from Hope River in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Author: thebookdivasreads

I'm a reader, an avid reader, or perhaps a rabid reader (at least according to my family). I enjoy reading from a variety of different genres but particularly enjoy fiction, mystery, suspense, thrillers, ChickLit, romance and classics. I also enjoy reading about numerous non-fiction subjects including aromatherapy, comparative religions, herbalism, naturopathic medicine, and tea.

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