Midwife of Hope River
Author: Patsy Harmon
Devastating news rocked the world of this about to be new mother when told the child in her womb not live. Fearful, scared yet not giving up hope this young mother hung on because she felt the news she received was wrong and God would bring her child out safely and alive. The midwife in place, her husband barely able to stand and the birth imminent no one expected this result. The doctor examined her and agreed with the midwife: How could they both be wrong? Dr. Blum confirmed the stillborn but Patience Murphy our midwife feels many will doubt her skill but will they?
As the story moves ahead and you learn more about her life, her husband and losing her child we meet Delfina a poor woman living in the Coal Mines having her 7th or 8th child. What happens is really heartwarming yet sad when Patience asks for help from the mining wives they deny her. When she asks if anyone would drive the woman to the hospital they won’t or it will take too long. What happens will definitely help the reader understand what a midwife does, her dedication and her Patience helping this woman give birth. But, just how her family assists will definitely endear you to these people and more.
Many people really do not fully comprehend just what a midwife does and her responsibilities. The author takes time to provide not only the experiences that Patience has delivering children but how she teams up with another midwife to safe a child that would otherwise die. She also includes the birth of a horse and how a young Vet insists she assist him in that birth and teaches her how to care for her sick cow. The information is invaluable. Added in she gives the reader information on her early life, where she came from and how and why she chose this field as her career.
We move to Katherine the young mother whose child was thought to be a stillborn but was not as we revisit her and her family. We learn that her maid Bitsy needs a home and hopefully Patience will allow her to be her assistant to pay for her room and board. As we get to know Bitsy we realize she is a smart young lady who learns fast and is a definite asset to Patience in many different ways even though she is resistant to her help at times. The author includes a really great journal keeping the reader informed about each birth and the experience encountered. She then recounts her time at the orphanage and he life on stage. This you will have to read for yourself to learn more about Patience. Reenter Daniel Hester out of nowhere to visit her. Deciding to pay her a visit and the reason still remains to be seen. Could he be interested in her?
Without Bitsy she seems lonely and actually misses her since she went home to visit her family. But, an unexpected visitor would alarm her and the end result will be quite startling and frightening to say the least when an unexpected encounter could prove dangerous.
Dreams float into her mind and she remembers her first and second husbands and shares her past life with readers. What happens next will surprise the reader as not only Bitsy but also Katherine turn up at her door but why? What happened to Katherine reminds everyone that spousal abuse is not something new. We continue next with another birth and the author enlightens everyone including the birth mother to what a birth bath is and how it will help Prudy deliver.
Next we learn what happens when they suspect a cave in and the town works together to help those that might be trapped. The trouble is at the mining camp and the end result will prove how hard these people work to help others. Many die and others live and the sadness befalls them but will they rebuild?
When Bitsy comes back into the picture she is amazing and what she does to convince a woman named Twyla to have her baby will definitely endear you to this young girl. Her persistence, her skills and her attitude in making sure she understands what needs to be done is quite remarkable. But, when a 14 year old has a child you wonder about the outcome.
Next we learn about the Klan and the fact that they are reorganizing in Union County. These people are dangerous and are anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic and anti just about everyone but themselves who they think are superior. Would she be a target? West Virginia is where she lives and that seems to be where they have come. Then true prejudice rears its head putting a young child in danger.
More births and then she and Bitsy are enlisted to the help the home health nurse. another precious child is born the mother is Docey of Beckley and the child has the precious name of Hope. Next we learn more about Dr. Hester and her relationship with him as she is called to the Klopfenstein farm to deliver Elvira and Moses Klopfenstein’s fourth child named Daniel. Then, trouble emerges as Mary Proudfoot, Bitsy’s mother has an accident and Bitsy is no where to be found added in is the fact that Katherine and her young son disappeared as related to her by the sheriff. But, the truth behind what happens will surprise you and the end result for Patience and Hester will make you smile. Just where Katherine is going is not to be divulged so William her husband can’t find her. But, when she and Hester come to see Mary Proudfoot what they are told by the medical staff let’s you know that many people judge others by the color of their skin and that they deny Negroes medical care in this facility. As they put it: “We don’t cater to Negroes,” neither does Dr. Blum deliver black children at the hospital. The truth behind Mary’s fall revealed and where Thomas her son goes will hopefully not make it worse when he confronts William. So, why is William dead and who killed him? Many lives are lost some through violence other illness as we lose Grace Potts, Mary Proudfoot, William MacIntosh and some small children.
The story goes on with many other births and where Katherine and her son wind up before we learn about Polio during this time period and those afflicted as the author flashes back to 1916. Forgiveness is not easy and what the author relates will definitely make you think when you read chapter 39 and she relates information about her life when she was orphaned twice, her life with Ruben, Bitsy and much more. On October 13, 1930 Bitsy delivered her first child alone. But, trouble comes right to her door in the way of some men pretending to be Klansmen and what happens next will definitely endear you to the people of Hazel Patch and teach everyone why prejudice is wrong. Those that she cared for are all gone yet she stays. Everyone that matters has died or moved on will she allow Hester in her life? An ending that will bring tears to your eyes and hope within your heart when you read this outstanding novel about Patience Murphy and allow her into your life for 382 pages that will definitely renew your faith in love, loyalty, forgiveness, understanding and just plain HOPE.
Fran Lewis: reviewer