Book Review: The Midwife of Hope River

November 2, 2012 Book Review 7

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman, CNM
Received from William Morrow Paperbacks (a division of Harper Collins) {thank you!}
published: August 28th, 2012 | 320 pages


A compelling storyline.

Strong, Appalachian Mountain folk.

A setting so beautiful, so wild, it takes your breath.

So what went wrong?


I really wanted to like this book.  Patience Murphy, advocate for coal miner rights via the union and suffragist in the women and children’s rights movement, falls into the job and lifestyle of being the midwife in a rural Appalachian Mountain West Virginia town.  It’s been a year since her friend and mentor passed away, and Patience is barely surviving on the limited payment she receives for delivering a baby.

When Patience delivers for the boss of the coal mine on the day after the market crashes, circumstances go from bad to worse for the people of Hope River.  Patience ends up taking in the daughter of the housemaid for the coal mine boss to keep the young girl off the street.   But her   worry of giving up solitude and space is unfounded when the women become fast friends.  And although the Civil War has been over for 55 years, a white woman having a close friendship with a black woman in the hills of West Virginia is frowned upon by many.

Patience Murphy is also living under an alias. . .we are not told why until late in the novel. . .only given small flashbacks into Murphy’s past.  Usually I enjoy the use of flashbacks and find a lot of realism in a character when a memory comes floating to the surface; however, in The Midwife of Hope River, the flashbacks felt disjointed.  There did not appear to be much depth to any of the characters…I did not feel the emotions or the characters nor the circumstances they put themselves in.

Probably the most frustrating point to the novel was that it could have used a thorough editing job.  For example, in one scene a woman leaves her abusive husband with the new baby but there’s no mention of the four year old child the couple had in a prior scene…but then a few pages later the couple is said to have two children.

I read the back story on the author for The Midwife of Hope River prior to reading the novel.  Learning all that Patricia Harman has accomplished really psyched me up for this particular title.  It just did not deliver [for me].  Many others have found this novel to be quite enjoyable.  To read what other book review bloggers are saying visit ___.

I would love to hear your thoughts, especially if you’ve read this title.  Or if you’ve had a similar situation ~ the author’s bio reads like ‘winner of the World Series, Superbowl, and World Cup’ but the novel does not deliver ~ how do you handle the review?



7 Responses to “Book Review: The Midwife of Hope River”

    • Stacy

      it was a finished copy. :-/
      Kathy, you’re a pro at reviewing ~ do you call out poor editing?

  1. Patti Smith

    I appreciate a detailed honest review, and I find negative reviews very difficult to write as well. I finished a book just recently that really felt like it had been “slapped together”…honestly, the feeling that something was rushed to press really upsets me because my time as a reader is precious. With everything else I have to tend to on a daily basis, I don’t have as much reading time as I would like as it is. In this day and time, with the huge amount of reading material available and choices made on a daily basis, there is no excuse for poor editing. In my opinion, it’s a pretty sure way to lose readership for the author (mine anyway).

  2. zibilee

    I am sorry this one didn’t work for you. I actually loved it, but then again, I am a sucker for midwife stories. I did not notice the inconsistencies, and if I had, I probably would have been a little more critical. It seems like the kind of book that would be polarizing at times though, and I do really appreciate the balanced and honest review.

    • Stacy

      I actually enjoy when we have a difference of opinion as that brings about even more conversation…my favorite part!

      I did find myself talking about this book even today at school and a bit of the history that I learned from reading this book. The history is fascinating (and sad). All of my children were delivered by a midwife whom I credit with helping me have great pregnancy memories.

      I’m off to read your review – looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

      • patricia harman

        Hi, from author. I came across your review this morning and was surprised to hear that you didn’t like The Midwife of Hope River. Thanks for reading it anyway. Though most people can’t put it down, it sounds like ti was a struggle for you.

        Here is one thing I didn’t understand. You talked about editing errors, specifically, one about an abused woman running to the midwife with no mention of what happened to her four year old. I assume you a referring to Catherine MacIntosh. For a minute you had me! I thought, oh, my god…how could I do that? But then I remembered. In an early chapter it says… Catherine’s ” first son, not yet two, a little blond boy just learning to talk, died from pneumonia last winter.” There is no other reference to a 4 year old.

        If there are other editing errors, I’d be happy if you’d point them out to me. I thought William Morrow did a great job, but you know the writer reads what is in her head, not what’s necessarily on the paper. I’m not sure if they could be changed, but I’d try.

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