The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife

( 103 )

Overview

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 ...

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The Midwife of Hope River: A Novel of an American Midwife

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Overview

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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  • The Midwife of Hope River
    The Midwife of Hope River  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in gritty Depression-era West Virginia, Harman’s debut novel tells the story of rural midwife Patience Murphy, a woman who loves helping new mothers bring children into the world. But a secret, violent past keeps her from letting anyone get too close, at least until she acquires a black housemate named Bitsy as well as Hester, a handsome neighbor and veterinarian whose exposure to dying horses in WWI fueled his decision to take up his father’s vocation. As times grow harder than they already are, these three unlikely friends have to pull together, even if it means revealing secrets that could bring trouble to them all. While Harman (Arms Wide Open: A Midwife’s Journey, a memoir), a certified nurse-midwife who has practiced in many rural communities, clearly has a comprehensive understanding of midwifery, her narrative pacing leaves much to be desired. Patience’s story is slow, and the characters that surround her are insufficiently drawn, creating more inertia than intrigue. Still, the stories of the births that Patience handles in this difficult era are fascinating. Agent: Barbara Braun, Barbara Braun Associates. (Sept.)
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[A] frank, absorbing memoir from a midwife at a tiny West Virgina health clinic.”
Boston Globe
“Well-written and heartfelt.”
Shelf Awareness
“A moving and illuminating memoir from a talented nurse-midwife about the troubled courageous women in her care.”
Fran Lewis
“...will definitely renew your faith in love, loyalty, forgiveness, understanding and just plain HOPE.”
Johanna Moran
“The Midwife of Hope River...is still on my mind days after finishing. From start to satisfying conclusion, it is a beautifully imagined novel, a marvel of a debut, rich with fully realized characters and events. This is one I’ll read again, more slowly next time.”
Penny Armstrong
“As always when writing of birth, the bleakest of times can be transformed by the power and beauty of birth...the moments of joy between new parents and their baby, between the mothers and the midwife, and between the midwife and her young assistant, light up the pages. Amen baby!”
Amy Hill Hearth
“I learned, I laughed, I cried, but most of all I was deeply impressed by the artistry of the midwife and her central role in women’s lives prior to the advent of commercialized, institutionalized medicine. This novel will live in my heart for years to come.”
Gay Courter
“a luminous novel of new beginnings, loss, love…and yes hope! Patricia Harman’s all-too-human stories of birth mingle with the harsh realities of rural life in the 1930s...A thoroughly satisfying read by a talented storyteller.”
Library Journal
At age 36, Patience Murphy is a widow and union sympathizer whose radical past has sent her into hiding. When the Great Depression arrives, Patience is living in West Virginia, working as a novice midwife until the death of her mentor forces her to attend births alone. With the help of a nearby veterinarian and an African American girl, Bitsy, Patience keeps the wolves from her door. Called out at any hour of the day to the homes of both the poor and the not-so-poor, she slowly earns respect for her midwifery skills, if not much in the way of cash. Penning journal entries of each birth, as well as colorful back stories of the time she spent with anarchists and the two men she loved, Patience strives to make sense of her life. VERDICT Memoirist Harman (Arms Open Wide; The Blue Cotton Gown), herself a certified nurse-midwife, takes readers back to hardscrabble times and adds plenty of medical drama and a dash of romance, to offer an uncommonly good piece of American historical fiction. [For a contemporary take on midwives, see Bridget Boland's The Doula, coming in September from Gallery Books—Ed.]—Keddy Ann Outlaw, formerly with Harris County P.L., Houston
Library Journal
A practicing midwife who has authored two memoirs, The Blue Cotton Gown and Arms Wide Open—both small-press publications that found an appreciative audience—Harman turns to fiction. Patience Murphy, a midwife getting started in 1930s Appalachia, willingly takes on hard-luck cases even as she guards her own secrets. With a 75,000-copy first printing, five-city tour, and reading group guide; watch, especially in Appalachia.
Kirkus Reviews
Prohibition, the Ku Klux Klan, unions, Mother Jones--the early-20th century would be a tough world for anyone. Orphan, unwed mother, widow, midwife--Patience Murphy is a worthy adversary. Following her acclaimed memoirs (Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey, 2011, etc.), Harman offers her debut novel, tracing the life of a midwife in Appalachia. Yet Patience Murphy is no ordinary midwife. Indeed, much of society would question whether she meets the primary qualification for midwives in early-20th-century America: good moral character. Orphaned at the age of 14, Patience is sent to live first with a kind widow and then to Saint Mary's House of Mercy Orphanage. She makes good use of herself, reading to the younger children and working in the laundry. Eventually, Patience escapes her drudgery to become a chorus girl, lying about her name and age to secure the job. There she falls in love with Lawrence, a scene designer. Soon pregnant, Patience loses her child when Lawrence is killed in a train wreck. Yet Patience's tribulations and adventures have only begun. She becomes a professional wet nurse, an accidental thief and a fugitive from a would-be rapist. She is welcomed on the fringes of society by union agitators and midwives--until a violent workers' strike brings her world crashing down. After fleeing to Appalachia, Patience finds herself hiding her past while trying to gain some professional respect--a difficult goal, given that midwives could not legally perform internal exams on their patients. Threading these events together are the fascinating birth stories. Midwives are warriors in this beautifully sweeping tale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062198891
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 382
  • Sales rank: 138,712
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs. This is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 103 )
Rating Distribution

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(54)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 103 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read!

    Coal mining West Virginia during the 1930's is the setting for Patricia Harman's engaging debut novel, THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER. Patience Murphy is making a new life caring for pregnant women in Appalachia as she reconciles her past with her new surroundings.

    With the heart of Sandra Dallas, the intensity of Gay Courter and a nod to Barbara Wood the author integrates historical notes (the Great Depression, Appalachian coal mining, unions for miners and lack thereof, Emma Goldman the anarchist, Mother Jones, and even the Ku Klux Klan) into a seamless story about womanhood and the inherent risks of childbirth. She writes of a world where poverty, malnutrition and unequal access to quality healthcare can mean the difference between life and death. And while Patience's story is the story of her female clients and their children's births it is also her story.

    Harman weaves Patience's personal tale with gentleness and sudden details that leave the reader wondering how the midwife can escape her own sadness to help her patients. Can the town vet be counted on as an ally for Patience? Can Patience reconcile her own past and move forward to be the midwife Hope River needs? Can she face the challenges for both the poorest and wealthiest of her clients? Can she train an apprentice? Will her past change her future?

    An excellent book about the fragility of life, the miracle of birth, the community of neighbors, the Great Depression, love and healing and a woman's journey to find her place in the world. Beautifully written and a joy to read.

    17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    O

    Between the plot spoilers and the children playing their little kittkat games its hard to get a true review here. Bn, please do something to the plot spoilers giving away the entire storyline, and the kids with the cat clan games. Isnt this a booj review site? When did it turn into a playground for children to play games?

    11 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Great book about depression era

    My book club chose this book because of the depression era theme. It was a wonderful story about this period of American history. Everyone liked the book which does not always happen. We also had a great discussion about our own relatives during that time.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 2, 2013

    I loved this book- depression era West Virginia sounded rather d

    I loved this book- depression era West Virginia sounded rather depressing- but this book is about hope and life. I could not put it down. I hope the author plans a sequel

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by: Aubrey Book provided by: Publisher Review originall

    Reviewed by: Aubrey
    Book provided by: Publisher
    Review originally posted at Romancing the Book




    I love this book so much. It’s honestly one of my new favorite books ever. I love how Harman writes. She is quite frank and to the point but with a lot of humor. The main character, Patience, is exceptionally well written. She is character full of depth and layers and unquestionably a character that is more than what she seems. She is a midwife, but you get glimpses of a life led before that was exciting. She holds many of the feminist ideals that I do.




    Her life as a midwife is not easy. She does not always get paid, but you get the feeling that Patience loves what she does. She faced many obstacles being a midwife in the mountains in one of the poorest areas of the country at the time and many men did not accept that she could do the job that a doctor could do. What is so fascinating about her attending all these births is that you get to see how all different families live and operate. You see the intersections of socioeconomic status and race and how the two intersect and how they also cause problems.




    As her first published novel, Harman wrote a story that is emotional and raw. It is one that I will recommend to many of my friends who are interested in birth and midwifery. This books is comparable to The Birth House by Ami McKay.

    7 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    Enjoyable

    Interesting. I love historical fiction and this book did not disappoint.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    A must read

    This was a wonderful story and just when I didn't know what to read. I heard from my sister what a good book this was so I got the Nook version and couldn't put it down. Great reading for women and anyone who appreciates the struggles some women have had in their lives. Heartwarming.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    A Stunning Tale of True Grit

    "The Midwife of Hope River" is a stunning tale of true grit in West Virginia during the Depression-era. Patience is a truly flawed yet extraordinarily likeable character who finds friendship, love and a new life after enduring much heartbreak. The true to life stories of birthing are heartwarming, humorous and some horiffic. When I got to the last 60 pages...I savored each one not wanting the story to end. It is a MUST READ for all book clubs!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2013

    I really enjoyed reading this book. The author kept the story mo

    I really enjoyed reading this book. The author kept the story moving and interesting. It is a very good read. I look forward to more books by this Author Patricia Harmon.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2013

    Great.

    Beautifully written. Loved this book.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012

    highly recommended

    This book is undoubtedly the most interesting, exciting, overwhelming description of the life and times of a midwife during the most tumultuous times in the history of the United States. The story is written from the heart and reaches into the heart of the reader.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Very enjoyable

    Quite an interesting book. Well developed charachters, and easy to read. Will look forward to reading more by this author

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Patience Murphy lives an isolated but adrenaline-kicking lifesty

    Patience Murphy lives an isolated but adrenaline-kicking lifestyle. At any time of the day or night, a person might knock on her door or a car pull up into her yard, seeking her very new skills as a midwife to help deliver a baby. Sometimes everything goes oh so smoothly and yet there's always tension even until that last second when a baby emerges from his or her mother and is found to be healthy and whole when there is equal joy! But frequently, for various reasons, the baby has turned in utero and Patience has a huge challenge to deliver the baby, saving both the baby and its mother's life. Pay comes in very, very small bills but more likely in the form of food or wood for a fire.

    For the Depression is looming over the entire nation and even the mines in West Virginia have closed or are very close to closing. Patience has wound up in this little country town because she fears the cops are after her, a story that gradually emerges throughout the entire novel.

    A neighboring veterinarian is the first to help Patience albeit after quite a bit of gruffness. But he later turns out to be more than a rough character and becomes a caring friend. So what's the drama herein? Could it be the delivering of animal young 'uns as well as human babies? Could it be when a fierce ice storm glazes the area through which Patience must travel for another birth? Perhaps it's the husband who violently abuses his wife or anyone close enough to his rage?

    There are several stories within this obvious surface story. But the reader finds Patience to be an honest, straight-forward, caring woman who has picked the perfect profession for her and luckily for her patients. Unions and racism are volatile subjects to discuss or be a part of. Patience, however, is a rebel for the most sincere reasons one would be a viable rebel; she cares more for people, their families, their finances that help them survive, etc. more than greed for more material possessions and more than the hate that turns cowards (KKK) into would-be killers!

    The Midwife of Hope River is about second chances and rising above the smallness of those locked in "old time" ways and means! It's about sticking together and needing each other in a truly whole, community style. Nicely done, Ms. Harman!

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Great story

    This hard to put down book weaves a great story that pulls the reader onto page after page. Nicely done!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Loved it!

    The Midwife of Hope River was set in Depression era West Virginia. Patience Murphy is a very empathetic and caring midwife. She lives alone except for her memories of lost loved ones and the fear of the law catching up with her for past wrong doings. When she befriends a colored woman some of the locals don't care for it and let her know. I highly recommend this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Colorful characters, beautiful writing and a great history setting

    This is a wonderful read that you won't want to put down. You will fall in love with the main character and never find a dull moment! Loved everything about this book and writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Great read!

    A wonderful story of a midwife who carries her own secrets while trying to stay "invisble" to the outside world. A story of unlikley friendships with the backdrop of the depression, the struggle of the poorest of the poor, but the strength of the human spirit.

    Story moves along effortlessly. Enjoyable and easy to be part of the story!! Won't disappoint.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2013

    One of the best books I have ever read! I could hardly put it do

    One of the best books I have ever read! I could hardly put it down. Patsy Harman is a wonderful storyteller, making the reader feel as if they are side by side with the characters of this Appalachian town. Loved it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    Wonderful

    Great novel Great read

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Takes place in the 1920"s, but timely.
    Good Book discussion.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 103 Customer Reviews

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