Book Information – The Midwife’s Tale
Author – Delia Parr
This book was such a refreshing read, and I truly enjoyed it. First in the At Home in Trinity series, it details the daily life of the town midwife in Trinity, Pennsylvania during the 1830s.
Martha Cade, the midwife of the title, is a widow who has tended the women and children of Trinity for years, just as her grandmother did before her. As the novel opens, we see her attending the birth of a local woman. Shortly thereafter, she learns that her grown daughter has run off with a theater troupe, a poor decision that causes Martha no end of pain.
To add to Martha’s troubles, we also learn that the town has welcomed a new doctor. Unlike his predecessor, Dr. McMillan is young and his modern training causes him to believe that the local midwife cannot be anything but backwards. As a widow, Martha depends upon midwifery for her livelihood so competition from a doctor hostile to her trade poses a real threat.
And, on a more positive note, there is a hint of possible romance running through the book as well. Like Martha, the town mayor Thomas Dillon has lost his spouse. Both were happily married, but there are definite hints of interest between them now that each has obviously been widowed for some time. It’s a thread that I suspect will pick up in later books in the series, and I actually found it quite sweet.
So, why did I enjoy this book so much? The understated writing style had much to do with it. Parr puts her story together in a way that is both gentle and matter of fact, and I felt as if I could just sink into her world.
Even though I use the word “gentle” in describing this novel, there is actually no shortage of drama. Over the course of this story, we encounter difficult births, professional rivalry, Martha’s befriending of a young orphan boy, and Martha’s own grief over the recent disappearance of her rebellious young adult daughter. It could have been melodramatic, but Parr’s writing style makes the book engaging instead of overdone.
I also liked that Martha is so different from most of the heroines I encounter in both secular and Christian fiction. Due to her circumstances, Martha must work very hard just to survive. However, she often comes across as very content with her life, and as she goes about her days, readers are frequently privy to her prayers of thanks, praise or requests for aid. She truly lives out the biblical admonitions to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. I enjoyed seeing a more mature faith woven into a character’s daily life. Martha’s age is never given and since people married and had children younger in the 1830s, she could be younger, but her way of relating to others around her gave me the impression that she must be in her 40s or even 50s.
My one issue with the book came near the end. As the author wrapped up several of her subplots, she did so in such sudden fashion that the ending of this novel felt rushed and bit overly coincidental. I enjoyed the vast majority of this story, but the ending did not work for me very well. I’m still curious to read future books in the series (Book 2 is due out in December!) to see how things turn out for Martha.
Rating – 4 stars