The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman has been out for ages and I’ve even owned the audiobook for a lot of that time but despite wanting to read it I never found the time to. Well when the chance to review the sequel for a book tour came up I knew it was time because you can’t read the sequel without having read the first book and I’m so glad I did. Besides that I have a fascination with all things to do with midwifery especially pertaining to long ago times such as the 1930’s when this book takes place. The Midwife of Hope River is about so much more than just birthing babies – it’s about struggling in hard times, friendship, heartbreak, and above all hope in new life, whether it be a birth or a rediscovery of one’s self.
Taking place in the 1930’s we meet Patience Murphy who is an Appalachian midwife. Patience came to Hope River to escape her own haunting past. Patience, being new to the community, doesn’t turn anyone in need away. She births babies for everyone – the rich, the poor, the black, the white. Along the way she makes some good friends like Bitsy who ends up being her assistant. I loved Bitsy who was a strong, intelligent black woman with a wit that often had me smiling. As they attend births and experience both joy and sadness Patience finds herself reflecting on her own past and all that has happened to bring her to where she is now. As the two women become closer Patience is given a first hand look at what it is like to be a black woman in the 1930’s. People look down on Patience for having Bitsy living with her and assisting her but Patience doesn’t budge. She isn’t going to have anyone tell her who she can be friends with or work with for that matter. As tensions rise though Patience wonders if she will be able to keep the both of them safe.
I loved this story and what I thought most impressive was the reality portrayed in the pages of this book and then I found out that Patricia Harman is herself a certified midwife and it all made sense. When you read a book like this you thank your lucky stars that you live in the times of modern medicine. As Harman describes the births and how harrowing they could be with babies or mothers dying you can understand how hard it was for women back then. Some women could afford to go to a hospital but a great majority and especially the ones that Patience administered to could not. More than that most couldn’t pay for the services either. They paid in food or whatever they could and Patience accepted that as well because more often than not she needed what they were offering as payment. I loved the author’s writing as well. She so vividly describes the sights, sounds, and smells of the births that I felt I was in those homes with those country folk just praying all would go well. What I feel most thankful for is that nowadays with modern medicine many more women and children make it even through the most harrowing of circumstances.
For fans of historical fiction and novels on midwifery I think The Midwife of Hope River is one of the best I’ve read. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Anne Wittman and oh my she does a good job from the birthing scenes to the highly emotional tone of this novel at times. She truly does bring this novel alive for the listener. Highly recommended.
Source: Audiobook from my personal library.
The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag is one of the She Reads Books of Winter and yet another one I really enjoyed. I have yet to encounter a bad book club pick by the She Reads ladies that I haven’t liked and I love that my reading interests seem to match theirs! I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Jennifer Carr. I’ve never listened to her before but I thoroughly enjoyed the tone of her voice and way she brought this story to life for me. The Dress Shop of Dreams is a charming and delightful tale with a dusting of magic and I loved it!
Having lost her parents years ago Cora Sparks, a scientist, now spends her time in the lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. As much as Cora has a scientific mind her grandmother leans toward the more mystical side of life. While her dress shop looks quite ordinary to anyone passing by it is anything but. This quaint little dress shop holds a secret and that secret lies in the hands of Etta and her needle and thread. With a few stitches she sews a little magic into her gowns that has the ability to release a woman’s deepest desires.
Etta wants nothing more than to see Cora fall in love and be happy but Cora is a scientist who doesn’t really believe in all the drivvle of love. Still Etta is determined to work a bit of her magic on her own granddaughter but instead of sewing a few stitches into Cora’s dress she decides instead to sew the stitches into Walt’s collar. Walt has been in love with Cora for as long as he can remember but he is so shy that he’s never had the nerve to tell her. This is what Etta is hoping to change. Maybe if Walt tells Cora how he feels she will open herself up to his love. Unfortunately all does not go as planned but even so the events that do take place hold the power to change Cora’s life forever.
This is just a wonderful story that makes you feel good. I liked everything from the English setting to the romance and even the mystery that was woven throughout the pages. Most of all I loved the magical tone of the novel and felt carried away by it. Highly recommended!
Source: Audiobook from my personal library.
Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan takes us to New York City in the 1950’s and vividly brings alive the sights, sounds, and happenings of the era. I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Kristin Kalbli and she does a wonderful job. I haven’t had the pleasure of listening to her before but I thought she perfectly evoked all of the emotion of the characters and liveliness of New York. Searching for Grace Kelly is a story about friendship and of discovering oneself. It is funny, sad, and hopeful. I truly enjoyed every minute I spent listening to this book.
Laura Dixon is a small town debutante who attends Smith. Coming to New York to work at Mademoiselle for the summer has been her dream since she was a young girl. Upon arriving at New York’s Barbizon Hotel (where the famous Grace Kelly once lived) she meets Dolly, from a working class family, in New York to go to secretarial school and the British Vivian who cares not a whit for rules or regulations and lives life on her own terms. Although different in personalities and upbringing the girls forge a friendship that will carry them through the summer and have an everlasting effect on their lives afterwards.
Laura has big dreams for her future and they don’t include marrying well as her mother wishes. She wants to be a writer and New York is the perfect place to see that happen. Her only detour is the love triangle she finds herself in. Dolly’s only dream is to be loved and find the perfect man who fills that desire but she seems to have the worst luck in doing so. When she finally meets a man he turns out to be very mysterious and secretive. Vivian works as a cigarette girl at one of New York’s popular clubs and dreams of being a singer but being a troublemaker herself she finds herself dating one too. These men will change the lives of these girls forever.
I liked all of the girls but I think Laura was my favorite. She had a set of standards and morals she set for herself and she stuck to them no matter who was wooing her. Dolly irritated me at times but that’s probably because she felt her life depended on finding a husband and that’s not something I feel is true although in the era of this novel it was. Vivian I liked because she was such a rebel. I think any woman can relate to these girls as they grow and learn more about the world around them and themselves.
For fans of historical fiction and the fifties, Searching for Grace Kelly is the perfect pick! Highly recommended – especially in audio. It’s a wonderful audio production and the narrator Kristin Kalbli really brought New York and the lives of these girls to life for me. Loved it!
Source: Audiobook provided by ListenUp Audiobooks for an honest review. No compensation was received.
The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi is a story about love and friendship and of opening your heart in ways you may not have thought possible. It is the first in The Greek Village series and the books focus on someone different in each book so it would be easy enough to read them in any order but I’ve already got the second one in my clutches and ready to go. LOL. I listened to the audiobook of The Illegal Gardener which is narrated by Suzanne Heathcote and she does an amazing job with this story. She made me feel as though I was right there in that small Greek village experiencing all the sights, sounds, and food. I just loved it in audio!
Juliet is at a crossroads in her life. Depressed after a divorce she decides on impulse to sell her home in England and move herself into a dilapidated farmhouse in a small Greek village leaving everything else behind. Her sons think her a bit crazy but she’s ok with that. She is able to live in the house and slowly work on restoring it but she finds the outside work, particularly the garden, too much for her to handle on her own. Yet she wants to restore the garden to the former beauty she knows is lurking underneath all the stuff that has just been thrown out there over the years. Despite not being entirely comfortable with hiring casual laborers she sets out to do just that and meets Aaman. Aaman is in Greece illegally having come from Pakistan. He has come to find work and earn enough money to take home to his wife and other villagers so that they can buy the harvester that they desperately need. This harvester will hopefully enable them to escape the clutches of poverty they are in. He is happy for the work that Juliet offers him.
While this may seem straight forward it is anything but that. At first Juliet is uncomfortable having Aaman there and she really doesn’t know how to act around him. Certain things she does out of politeness don’t seem to be received all that well. For Aaman he feels out of his depth. He isn’t used to this country or its ways and many of the things that Juliet does only serve to make him feel more useless. As summer unfolds and the two spend more time with each other they begin to slowly learn and understand more about how the other feels. They discover they have more in common than they ever thought. More importantly they learn that friendship, even between two people who are very different both in culture and background, can blossom and flourish.
I loved this book and the audiobook is truly wonderful. If you are an audiobook listener be sure to add this one to your list and be taken away to a tiny Greek village and into the lives of two very wonderful characters. Highly recommended!