I was asked to do a book review for Patricia Harman's newest book, The Midwife of Hope River (oddly it was a former birth student of MINE who works in publishing who asked me to do the review!- it is a small world). I am so glad that she thought of me and asked me to read the book. I usually just read trashy mysteries (nothing wrong with that) so this was a nice change of pace.
The book is fictional but written by a real life midwife. Full of a wide array of birth stories (and a little love story) it is an amazing little piece of midwifery history, American history, and the stories of women. The circumstances and customs surrounding birth change. But BIRTH, it's mechanics and it's emotions and it's simple powerful beauty- that stays the same.
It was an amazing little book and I think you will love it too.
The Midwife of Hope River tells the story of a fictional midwife, Patience, and her life, her tragedies, her call to midwifery, and finally the stories of the many women she serves. She works in rural Appalachia amoung all different kinds of women, poor, rich, white and black, single and married, happy and miserable. Through the stories about these mothers and families, Patricia tells the story of the time.
So often the history of women goes unspoken and unheard. I love that this book tries to tell that silent story and does so through the power inherent in women when they birth.
Honestly, the thing that struck me the most as I read it was how even though the book takes place during the depression and in a very rural area, it was amazing how SAFE the births were. It is also pretty miraculous what a midwife can do with just a little knowledge and almost no medical equipment or training.
I realize that the book is fictional, but having read other books by midwives, I think there is a lot of truth in it. People go on and on sometimes about how everybody should have a baby in a hospital. But some of these midwives worked in the worst situations- no plumbing, no electricity, no drugs for hemorrhage, high risk populations and women who were poorly nourished, and they STILL had some amazing results.
This book also speaks to the calling that true midwifery really is. It is so much more than a job. So many women do this work that pulls them from their beds at night and the so often did it for free or very little.
Another wonderful thing about this book was that I think it will bring some of the wonder and sacred power of birth back into the minds of regular people. I read lots of birth books, but most people DON'T. I am so glad that Patricia Harmon was inspired to write about midwifery within the context of a novel. I hope that regular people who don't really think much about birth, will pick up this book, read it, and then think just a little differently about how we are born after reading it. One of the simplest ways we can make change is just to slightly re-arrange the way that people think about birth (as pathological and medical) and make them realize that it can be a joyful dance between a couple and their midwives.
This was an inspiring book. I liked it so much (and I was sure that you would too) that I asked the publisher if I could do a giveaway. And they said....
So- They have five copies that they are willing to send out. All I ask is that you comment on this blog post in the next three days and I will randomly select 5 winners. Not only would this be a great book to have on your bookshelf, it makes a wonderful little gift for a person you love. (Only shipping to Canada and the USA.)
Enjoy and good luck!
(PLEASE- leave your e-mail address in your comment so I can get in touch with you!)
If you would like to meet Patricia Harman on her book tour, check her out at these locations.
You can also find her on Facebook-