The Midwife of Hope River
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The Midwife of Hope River (Hope River #1)

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  4,366 ratings  ·  748 reviews
A remarkable new voice in American fiction, creates an uplifting novel that celebrates the miracle of life.

A William Morrow Paperback Original
A debut novel featuring Patience Murphy, an Appalachian midwife in the 1930s struggling against disease, poverty, and prejudices-and her own haunting past-to bring new light, and life, into an otherwise cruel world

As a midwife workin...more
Paperback, 382 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Appalachian Fiction
14th out of 123 books — 176 voters
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Midwifery books
6th out of 114 books — 47 voters


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Community Reviews

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Teresa
This book is really two stories wrapped in one.

First we have the story of Patience, the midwife of Hope River, who is almost entirely disconnected from the community she lives in, despite being one of the most integral people in town. She attends births, but usually has little to no relationship to the mother. Despite this handicap, she repeatedly is able, in the matter of minutes, to size up the personalities of the people involved, calm the situation down, deliver the baby, and in one case, e...more
Rachael
This book tells the story of Patience, a depression-era West Virginia midwife with a dark past. Patience is self sufficient and isolated from her community, but as she reaches out to others through her practice, she is knit to her community through shared sorrow and joy. This novel attempts to celebrate our shared humanity, through love, loss, and the intense act of giving birth to a child. Unfortunately, this beautiful and uplifting theme fell flat for me because I was never emotionally engross...more
Kimberly Lett
…the perfect novel to read during Autumn and Winter, The Midwife of Hope River, celebrates life, friendship, love and community. Get your hot cocoa, marshmallows and blanket together and prepare to sit for long periods of time as you enjoy this page turner that you’ll dread finishing.

Imagine the time, an era of the Great Depression, where hope seemed lost with each passing season, each day feeling dark and troublesome on “Hope River.” Hope River is on the Appalachia Mountain in Union County, We...more
Beth
I loved every page of this book. I was drawn in from the first page to the descriptive imagery of Depression Era Appalachia. This was a very hard novel to put down. Patience is strong, yet vulnerable. She is brave, yet fearful of her past catching up with her. Her lack of prejudice and openness make her different from her neighbors in West Virginia. Many of them view her with mistrust, yet they need her in a community where the only doctor refuses to help black people or poor people.
It wasn't ju...more
Jane
Where I got the book: ARC from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

An eventful life has brought Patience Murphy to a rural backwater in 1930s West Virginia where she works as a midwife, at first a fairly inexperienced unknown but gradually gaining the respect and friendship of the community. With the Great Depression causing poverty all around her, she is increasingly called upon for difficult births because the families cannot afford a doctor or hospital, and her skills are put to the test....more
Romancing the Book
Reviewed by: Aubrey
Book provided by: Publisher
Review originally posted at Romancing the Book

I love this book so much. It’s honestly one of my new favorite books ever. I love how Harman writes. She is quite frank and to the point but with a lot of humor. The main character, Patience, is exceptionally well written. She is character full of depth and layers and unquestionably a character that is more than what she seems. She is a midwife, but you get glimpses of a life led before that was exciting....more
Jennifer
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman is a beautifully crafted tale of one woman’s struggles in life, as she helps bring new life into the world. Patience Murphy’s gift as a midwife, as readers will discover, enables her to bring life into the world by assisting indigent mothers with childbirth. Set during the Great Depression, Harman uses much symbolism as readers are transported back to this difficult time when money is scarce, working conditions poor, and bigotry is surfacing amidst th...more
Lisa
Started this review and had my computer freeze up -- grrrr!!! I was getting so deep, too. Attempting to reconstruct:

I am always drawn to books about midwifery, probably because my daughter was born in the 1980s with a lay midwife. Although this book was set in 1929-30, I thought the descriptions of the relationship between the midwife and the mothers were spot-on. I loved how Patience/Lizbeth and her teachers stepped back, allowed the mothers to labor in their own individual ways, learned from...more
Roxanne
I began reading this book without looking at the jacket or introduction. About 20 pages into the book I realized I had read Harman's book The Blue Cotton Gown and had not been impressed at all.

This book was everything I was "hoping" for and I'm glad I gave the author a second chance. Her fiction was way better than her non-fiction.

This story is written so well that you don't know you are receiving a history lesson when you really are. I didn't want the book to end to be honest.

I enjoyed the stor...more
Jennifer Margulis
I wish I could give this book MORE than five stars. It's gorgeous and heartbreaking. The writing is beautiful. Prickly Patience Murphy, who is bumbling along delivering babies in West Virginia, is drawn so perfectly: she is both flawed and likable, admitting her insecurities but taking charge when she has to in spite of them. The book has just the right combination of heart and drama. Trigger alert: there are so many touching scenes in this book--both happy and sad--that I don't think you can ge...more
Kats
Patience Murphy, a midwife in Union County in West Virginia in the late 1920s, has a vital role to play in her community but owing to her past, she pretty much keeps herself to herself and doesn't connect with anyone beyond the professional level. Written in the first person narrative, in a conversational style (journal entries mostly), Patience often alludes to her life being a difficult one and to having to keep a low profile. Over the course of the book (covering roughly a year from autumn 19...more
Amye
Patience Murphy is the new midwife of Hope River, although she's uncomfortable with the title of midwife since her mentor, Mrs. Kelly, has passed away and Patience has yet to fully complete her training. Yet, Patience has a gift, a real ability to understand the birthing process and to help a delivering woman bring her baby into the world. Through her eyes we experience many different birthing scenarios: from the presumed stillborn baby delivered to the MacIntosh woman, to the hysterical screami...more
Julie
I was pleasantly surprised with what a wonderful book this was! I wasn’t sure I’d like the subject of a depression-era midwife because of the whole baby birthing thing. Not that I’m squeamish about the mess of birth, but being voluntarily childless, I find books like these can be preachy about the merits of motherhood and extol the beauty of creating life. Harman, a midwife herself, balances the themes beautifully. She addresses everything from the racial tension in Appalachia, the economic coll...more
Chris
(I read this book in the wake of a book I really disliked, and therefore was inclined to give it a pass. Upon a few days' reflection, however, it really doesn't hold up all that well.)

*some spoilers below*


My main impetus for reading is discovering new characters. It's what drives a book for me. Lizbeth/Patience is not a character with whom I could sympathize. I do not believe that such a person could ever exist. She was preposterous, truly a "most interesting woman in the world". She was in the...more
April Helms
Very enjoyable. Harman, who herself was a midwife, covers a lot of territory with her novel, which is set in the 1930s, during the beginning of the Great Depression. Patience Murphy (actually an alias) is more or less thrown into the role of the town midwife after her mentor dies unexpectedly. She feels completely out of her depth, but gradually comes to trust her own strengths and instincts. It takes place over a year, and includes a mining accident, racial tensions, economic woes, and domestic...more
Deanna
I picked up this book while looking for new authors to read. I was drawn to it because I think midwifery is interesting and also I was hoping to learn a little bit about the Depression time period. Instead I got one of those books where 21st century social sensibilities dealing with lesbianism, women's rights and race relations are unrealistically spouted off by the main character. In other words, instead of a book about midwifery and the Depression I received a piece of liberal propaganda which...more
Dara
It's been some months since I had a book that I felt I needed to finish. This was the one that broke me out of that reading "funk."

I liked watching Patience grow throughout the book. It was slow in coming, as she was very hard hearted, but I can understand why after all the numerous tragedies she went through. I think the best of us would be cold and distant after all of that.

I did find some of her stories a little unbelievable--mostly, all the famous people she met while she was a rebel and uni...more
Sara Palacios
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman follows Patience Murphy who has the gift of escorting women through the challenges of bringing children into the world. During the depression, Patience takes on a job that is risky and doesn’t yield much of a financial return … yet is one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. After her mentor dies unexpectedly, she takes the helm and although she feels completely out of her element, she takes things slow and begins to trust herself. In a little over...more
Jessica Moore


I almost put the book down after reading the first line. I didn't want a book about dead babies, my heart just can't take that! Luckily, I continued, else I would have missed an excellent story. Written in a conversational style, I quite enjoyed this book as it reminded me of talking with my closest friends. You know about the protagonist's life from the start, but learn the deeper layers of who she is at heart as the novel progresses. The realization at the end that everyone has deep pain that...more
Heidi Norrod
Review and Rating

5/5 stars


This tale is so engaging and intricately interwoven that you are afraid to put the book down lest it will disappear and you'll never be able to finish it. Yes. It is that good.

I had my doubts about it, thinking that it may be nothing more than a bunch of pages about babies being born. I was so very, very wrong. I am so glad that I chose this book to read.

Patience Murphey is a character that I'd love to invite over for lemonade while we sat out on the porch. The second...more
Ginger
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED!!!! This book not only made it to my "favorites" list for this year, but also on my "all time" favorites list. This book reads like quick moving non-fiction. Told in Patience Murphy's POV, we follow her life for a year or so. Part present, part diary, Patience takes the reader with her to her deliveries as one of the only midwives in the area. You will smile with her, laugh out loud, become teary-eyed and at some points, actually cry along with her. She's a very strong woman...more
Lynn Joshua
The birth stories are interesting and realistic - as you would expect since the author is an experienced midwife. However, those events are the only reason I finished this book. The story was ruined for me because of the way the author has the main character, midwife Patience Murphy, spout off all of today's politically correct views on race relations, lesbianism, and women's rights, etc. This not only takes away from the believability - a woman in 1930 may have recognized and worked to overcome...more
Sharon Huether
The Midwife of Hope River.. by Patricia Harman ... A wonderful story how a brave young woman left the life she once had and learned to be a midwife from an expert. She relocated in the mountains of West Virginia, where no one knew her. She wrote in her journal each birth, learning from each one. You felt a sense of community, human spirit and love as she helped women during the depression.
Ellen
Fantastic read. This was a most enjoyable story. The way the author portrayed every scene was memorable. I laughed, became angry and cried with her. It felt as if you were with her all the way. Her writing is superb. Patience was the midwife and the many situations she got into with deliveries and personal situations were exciting, joyous, sad and what makes us human, caring for each other. I recommend this book. I just could not put it down. Thank you so much Patricia for such a heartfelt story...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
The Midwife of Hope River is an engaging and touching novel of human frailties and triumphs. Patience Murphy inherits the role of the midwife of Hope River, a small rural community in West Virgina, when her mentor and friend, Mrs Kelly dies. Patience is no stranger to loss, orphaned at a young age she has since buried a fiance, a husband and a child. Mrs Kelly was her last link to her secret past and without her support Patience is apprehensive about managing on her own.

The Midwife of Hope River...more
aspasiacat
Coal mining West Virginia during the 1930’s is the setting for Patricia Harman’s engaging debut novel THE MIDWIFE OF HOPE RIVER. Patience Murphy is making a new life caring for pregnant women in Appalachia, as she reconciles her past with her new surroundings.

With the heart of Sandra Dallas, the intensity of Gay Courter and a nod to Barbara Wood the author integrates historical notes (the Great Depression, Appalachian coal mining, unions for miners and lack thereof, Emma Goldman the anarchist,...more
Louise
Story Description:

Harpercollins|August 20, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-219889-1

Midwife Patience Murphy has a gift: a talent for escorting mothers through the challenges of bringing children into the world. Working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression. Patience takes the jobs that no one else wants, helping those most in need – and least likely to pay. She knows a successful midwifery practice must be built on a foundation of openness and trust – but the secr...more
Michelle
With her background as a midwife, Patricia Harman uses The Midwife of Hope River to highlight this worthy practice back when it was a necessity rather than a luxury. This is more than a story about women giving birth however. This is a story about survival at its most elemental, when jobs and money were almost nonexistent and when the ensuing desperation made even the most placid of individuals willing to contemplate just about anything to keep their family alive.

Patience Murphy is endearing wit...more
Lee
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman (ARC won through GoodReads) - thank you to both!

This is the second "midwife" book I've read - Midwives by CB was the first - and greatly enjoyed this one more than the other. I read primarily for "escapism" and the other was difficult (i.e. upsetting) to read. This book provided the escape into main character's (Patience Murphy) life that I look for in books.

The pace of this book is like the South – steady…slow…and it won't hurry no matter how much y...more
Elizabeth
I won this book from a Good Reads "First Reads" Giveaway and I am so glad that I did.

I loved this book!

It drew me right in and I felt like I was right there, in the mountains of West Virginia during the Great Depression with Patience Murphy, the midwife of Hope River.

All of the birth stories are so captivating. We get to see many different examples for labor. Some women dance their way through labor. Others, scream and claim they just can't do it. Still others, hardly make a sound. Patience del...more
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Patricia Harman has spent over thirty years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center.

She spent over a decade in the sixties and seventies in her wild youth living in rural communes in Washington (Tolstoy Farm), Connecticut

...more
More about Patricia Harman...
The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey The Reluctant Midwife: A Hope River Novel

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