The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
Midwife Patience Murphy settles in West Virginia in 1929, hiding from her past. The midwife who trained her has died, and she gets her own clients as the local midwife, Mrs. Potts, nears retirement. Reluctantly, Patience soon acquires a young African American assistant, Bitsy. Called out at all hours and in all weather, Patience and Bitsy are just scraping by, as many of their patients are also struggling. Gradually Patience reveals her past, from being orphaned at 14, to working at the orphanage laundry, running away to become a chorus girl, and becoming a wet nurse. She has also lost the two men she loved, one to an accident and the other in a violent workers’ strike. Descriptions of the births are detailed and sometimes joyful, and life in the Appalachians during the Great Depression is vividly portrayed. A nearby vet is unexpectedly helpful, and friends are found in unlikely places, but so is trouble. A memorable first novel, written by a nurse-midwife.