Once a Midwife

  • Author Patricia Harman
  • Release Date November 6, 2018
  • Publisher William Morrow
  • ISBN/ASIN 978-0062869333
  • Our Rating
  • Reviewed by Dorine

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Our Review

ONCE A MIDWIFE continues Patience Hester’s life as a midwife, as well as wife and mother in rural West Virginia, when America fought for freedom in WWII. So many interesting things happen to this family in an era that might be forgotten without novels such as this. I loved reading about rolling bandages for the Red Cross as much as learning to square dance.

Author Patricia Harman makes it all come alive with people’s hearts, prayer, and unforgettable settings. I love the way Harman sets a scene. All the characters have their thoughts on the Pearl Harbor tragedy, and even though they’re distant from where it occurred, the way people reacted in that time period is so realistic. We tend to forget what social media has done to how we face news. Looking back is so fascinating. And the midwife focus is so good.

Patience’s veteran husband, Dan, becomes a pacifist during the draft and refuses to sign up. This adds good tension from all sides of the story. How his family looks at him, and how the community responds, is familiar and chilling at the same time. Where did our freedom to choose go? It made me angry for his sake, but I felt his wife’s and family’s quandary as well.

There are moments of heartbreak and joy in this family’s story, but mostly it’s about Patience and her ability to endure everything that’s thrown at her with eventual love and understanding. Her struggles are realistic and heartfelt.

While reading this book, I finally realized how close to home this war came to us. I get why my grandparents taught me to stock a pantry. The Great Depression and WWII put many stressors on families. Just the black-out nights had to be terrifying for the children, let alone their fear of starvation and so many other things.

My only criticism is that the book is both too long and too short. When it ended – I wanted more, even though the end was satisfying. But yet again, sometimes while reading, I wanted less. That’s because we experience the characters’ lives through Patience Hester’s point-of-view, then she rehashes a day’s event in a journal entry.

That sometimes felt like duplication and a good place to trim the book’s page-length, even though those journal entries gave me insight into Patience’s hope and fear. After all, it took me over a month to read this book, because it wasn’t easy to read cover-to-cover in one sitting. I had to take breaks with faster-reading books in-between. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it, because I most certainly did – it’s just the type of book that I need to read in portions.

That also doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the detail, quite the contrary – I relished it. It’s just that some of the repetition seemed to slow the pacing that my reader anxiety wanted to speed up. I’m not quite as patient as Patience.

Even with that minor quibble, I could read a steady diet of Patricia Harman’s novels. They truly relax me and take me down-home to a place and people I love in one of my favorite places to vacation, West Virginia.

Even though this is the third book in the HOPE RIVER series, I feel strongly that new readers can settle into it fairly easy. I read and enjoyed the first book, THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER, but skipped the second one. This novel jogged my memory enough about what happened in the first book, even though it has been five years since I read it.

Because Romance Junkies is a romance review site, I need to make a point that this book isn’t Historical Romance, but classified better as Historical Fiction with romance elements. The main couple in the book are a man and wife who love one another but struggle throughout this book with their differing views on WWII. Their struggles are just like any couple’s, giving beautiful insight into what it means to truly love someone until death do you part. And yes, there is a HEA, so you don’t have to fear for your heart.

Page 115 made me smile when Patience talked about going through her seed catalogs when the February winter blues got to her. I had just been doing the very same thing an hour before I read that. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed with progress and the digital age. At least for some of us.

What an endeavor! After 487 pages, I realized what a huge accomplishment this book is for the author. Much of it contains a daily journal entry by Patience, in addition to the myriad of things that happened to her and her family and friends. That’s a lot of ideas, filled with intricate historical detail that makes this book so special.

If you want to step back in time with the brave spirit of this country’s pioneers, this book will give you that and more. Even though it was the 1940s, and more modern than actual pioneer days, they still did much of everything for themselves in rural America when wartime rationed most purchases. If you couldn’t make it or grow it, you did without.

A good story, ONCE A MIDWIFE takes you back to a wholesome America that struggled, while reminding you of the value of a life well-lived. Fans of the HOPE RIVER series will enjoy reconnecting with characters they’ve loved. For those who love Christmas stories, this novel is rich with detail about what this holiday was like in the 1940s.

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