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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  ·  6,033 ratings  ·  919 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
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Paperback, 382 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2012)
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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
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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
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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
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
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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.
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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.
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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
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
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
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
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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
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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
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
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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
Donna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Trudy
Beautifully written story of a struggling midwife who practiced in an Appalachian mining town during the Depression era. Eventhough this story is fiction, it is packed full of historical American references and some really amazing birth scenes.I so enjoyed this story and did not want it to end.
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
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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
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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
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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
Faustine
I'd maybe give this 2.5 stars - it wasn't bad, just wasn't fantastic either. I liked the character and the birth stories scattered throughout the book, but overall it seemed very disjointed. We keep getting vaguely unbelievable flashbacks to some vague exciting past, and its very difficult to reconcile with both the character we know and the likelihood of a woman in her socioeconomic status being involved in such settings. I was more than halfway through the book and wondering, is this going to ...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
☔Diane S.
3.5 This is a marvelous novel, not only for the character of Patience, but for the many layers of history it covers. The great depression, the mines in West Virginia, Mother Jones and the formation of the unions with the ensuing strikes, protesting the unsafe and long work hours required to be a mine worker, Patience has many secrets and these are revealed in flashbacks and so the reader comes to know Patience really well. The vet is also a character that I liked and I liked the comparison betwe ...more
Jan
Lisbeth Snyder, 36, didn’t plan to be a midwife, nor did she intend to live in rural West Virginia. But Lisbeth’s life has taken numerous unexpected turns in the past 20 years, and here she is, with many losses, her share of secrets, and a new moniker, Patience Murphy.

“The Midwife of Hope River,” which takes place in the year following the 1929 stock market crash, predominantly features the delivery of babies -- as one would expect. But it is really the story of a young woman filled with sorrowf
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Julia
I have to say, this book has a terrible title and one of the worst covers I've ever seen, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It's the (fictional) story of Patience Murphy, a woman who comes to rural West Virginia at the start of the Great Depression to work as a midwife. As we will learn over the course of the book, she is running from problems in her own life. The book is about her work as a midwife and the way that she integrates herself into the local community. Racial tensions and the impact of the
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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
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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

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More about Patricia Harman...

Other Books in the Series

Hope River (2 books)
  • The Reluctant Midwife (Hope River #2)
The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir The Reluctant Midwife (Hope River #2) Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey La sage-femme des Appalaches (Petite collection Lattès)

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“Grief takes about a year,” Mrs. Kelly once told a young mother who had lost her son. “You have to get through each holiday, each new season. You will cry at Christmas and New Year’s and Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. You will suffer with the first daffodil, the first falling red leaves, the first snow . . . Each occasion, each new season will rip your heart out; then, when there’s nothing left, you’ll get better.” She was right, and she knew from experience.” 2 likes
“It’s funny how beauty rides the back of pain . ” 2 likes
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