These days my reading
tends to be along the lines of Where is
Baby's Belly Button or on research in midwifery, pregnancy, labor, or birth
by reading my latest copy of Essentially MIDIRS. Tall is
the pile of books I will read when I have time, though I do snatch chapters of
them here and there. When I was offered a chance to review The Midwife of Hope River for
my blog, however, I wavered, before I gleefully agreed. Lured by the author (I
loved The Blue Cotton Gown, though
friends found it depressing, I found it full of universal hope and thirst for
life that trods slowly yet miraculously forward) and by West Virginia, I eagerly
awaited the book’s arrival and plotted how I would occupy my four dear ones
while I plunged into the first chapter. West Virginia? There will be more on
that in the coming months on this blog, but for now let me say that my time
spent on the mountain atSacred Mountain Midwifery have
left me deeply in love with the state.
I promised myself I would
write a quick review, and get it out there, or it would take me until next year
to publish this post, but I didn’t want to wait that long, I wanted you to go
out and buy or borrow a copy of the Midwife
of Hope River and love it as much as I did! The birth stories come
back to me, when I am waiting for the bus stop, on a cold rainy
night. This book pulses with artfully told birth stories that will equally
entrain moms and their midwives. This book is also a good dose of
reality. In "progressive" 2012 we can pretend that the days of
the Klu Klux Clan are long behind us. Patience, the main character, reminds
us that they are not, and I think that if we remember this, we will not get too
comfortable with how things are but rather press courageously forward to create
a world where racism can one day become a thing of the past. In the same way it
reminds us of how far we have come as women. It can be easy to take our
current freedoms for granted but Patience's poignant story as an unwed mother
reminds us not to forget our roots.
Was there anything I
didn't like about the novel? Occasionally I felt that Patience's bad luck
was almost unbelievable. But then, I think part of that has to do with
the fact that I do have a privileged life. If my grandparents were alive, this
story would urge me to sit down with them, and hear their hard stories again, so
as not to forget them. I love that when things get rough, as with The Blue Cotton Gown, there is always a
silver thread of hope.
As a reader interested in
history, I would have appreciated a key to the historical events mentioned in
the novel, for example the events at Blair Mountain or the Monongah mine
explosion: a brief explanation of the event and whether
or not factual details were changed for the book.
The first question in the
Discussion Section was misleading. I maybe nit picky but the question
sounds too much like a Discovery Channel's portrayal of birth as a disaster waiting
to happen: "The opening scene in The Midwife of Hope River presents a dark
and scary view of birth..." OK, maybe I am playing the midwife, but to
me the opening scene wasn’t dark and scary, just sad, and a good snap shot of
the real work of a midwife.
It would be fascinating
to learn more about Patricia’s research into midwifery in the early 1900s.
I wonder if, when she was younger, she talked to some of the older
midwives in West Virginia who might have been alive at the time Patience was midwifing.
Patience's use of vinegar and ice
to stop a hemorrhage, or the use of pennyroyal tea was interesting trivia. This
book reminds me of the importance of sharing birth stories, as well as the
stories of the midwives. Patricia shared her own story inThe
Blue Cotton Gown) and I would imagine
that The Midwife of Hope River will
encourage women to share their stories as well. We need more birth story
telling in our culture.