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The Midwife's Tale

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  625 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
I come from a long line of midwives," narrates Elizabeth Whitely. "I was expected to follow Mama, follow Granny, follow Great-granny. In the end, I didn't disappoint them.
Or perhaps I did. After all, there were no more midwives after me."For generations, the women in Elizabeth's family have brought life to Kettle Valley, West Virginia, heeding a destiny to tend its women
Paperback, 258 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Delta (first published April 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 18, 2009 Alaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book that I loved reading. The author weaves this story with such depth and insight into a woman's heart and mind. It contains all the ingredients for a great story including, birth, death, love, loss and heartache, all in a remote place where everyday living is hard.

Elizabeth became a midwife without any thought or decision. Her mother was a midwife, her grandmother was a midwife and her great grandmother and so on. Only Elizabeth was too gentle a person to be able
Sep 01, 2009 Kelly rated it did not like it
I gave this my requisite "50 pages before you quit" but had to jump ship since the narrator (as a teen, at least) was so infuriating with the whining, naivete, and obsession about a guy that seemingly didn't have ANY feelings for her.
I'm disappointed since I was really looking forward to a combination of a midwife's story with historical fiction in the Appalachian mountains, but couldn't get past the snotty protagonist. God bless her long-suffering mother, who was interesting, but alas. No go.
Dec 29, 2013 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful well written story told by one of the last midwife's in Kettle Valley West Virginia. The year was 1918.Reading this story I felt like I could be reading about my own Grandmother. She was a midwife in south eastern Kentucky around the same time. Rusha also kept journals. Blue ones I never saw any red journals...thankfully. I had heard so many of the stories Laskas tells in this book. Stories of love,hard living and undying loyalties and a miracle or two....
Jul 28, 2009 GoldenjoyBazyll rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is the story of a long line of women- all who were raised to be midwives... women serving women during times where fair and just were not very clear. I guess even today we could say the same but as I read this book my heart went out to the individuals. Those in loveless marriages.... living in poverty.... living without the miracle of modern medicine. However, in the midst of all of that... there was humanity- woman to woman.

I found the mother of the main character to be very interesting.
Oct 18, 2010 Heather rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2009 Annie rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautifully written novel, set in the early 1900s in rural West Virginia. This is my favorite kind of story, one that follows a family over a period of time, has lots of love and heartache, and a little bit of magic too.

Elizabeth comes from a long line of midwives and is trained alongside her mother to continue the family's work. Her first solo birth is an amazing experience but there are darker aspects to midwifery as well. At times Elizabeth questions certain methods and even tu
Jan 31, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book, what a great story teller ms Laskas. As she tells the story, all the characters become real, and you get a birds eye view of Mountain women in the 20's & 30's. This book covered all my emotions from anger to tears of joy and out loud laughter. The story is told by the midwife, Elizabeth, a 4th generation midwife in West Virigna. I am usually a mystery kind of reader, but this was a great change of pace book.
Lois Duncan
Nov 26, 2011 Lois Duncan rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was fascinated by the descriptions of life as a midwife and intrigued by the heroine's adopted daughter's abilities as a healer. The flaws in the heroine's character -- (there were times when I wanted to grab her and shake her and scream, "what the hell do you think you're doing?") -- were what made her human. This is definitely not a book that a man would enjoy, and possibly not a very young woman, but I personally couldn't lay it down.
Oct 10, 2007 Robyn rated it really liked it
Wonderful West Virginia story about midwives and midwifery, a backbone of the agricultural lifestyle, with heady dashes of storytelling thrown in. The people don't speak with a mimed accent, the hillfolk are neither pastoral nor crude, and the action often revolves around family histories that influence the decisions of the characters. Elizabeth is a very interesting narrator with a strong voice. Recommended for anyone who likes quality Appalachian fiction.
Rebecca Elswick
Jul 13, 2014 Rebecca Elswick rated it it was amazing
I was spellbound by The Midwife's Tale. Elizabeth Whitely is a character filled with West VA grit, yet at the same time, she's a woman trying to take her place with the long line of midwives in her family. While still a teenager, she is already following in her mother's footsteps and practicing midwifery, that is until her mother revels the meaning of the red journal. After leaving home for a year, she returns to her mother and to being a midwife when Alvin Denniker comes looking for a midwife t ...more
Jul 31, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it
I'd have rather given 4.5 stars. Surprisingly good Appalachian fiction that did not get into any of the politics of midwifery, but focused on the tales of relationships instead. The author obviously is attuned to the nuances of different types of relationships; her characters stick with you.
Jan 06, 2016 Lisa rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Our local Friends of the library has frequent book sales, where I do my best to support an institution I love, both through volunteerism and patronage. At the last book sale, I found this novel tucked into the health/science section by someone who judged a book by its title, not its content. As I walked it toward the fiction section, I read the back blurb, then decided perhaps it should come home with me, instead.

In my younger days I spent much time in the West Virginia mountains. There, I got
Jun 30, 2010 Sheree rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of tales based on healing & midwifery, historical fiction lovers.
Recommended to Sheree by: Alaine
4.5 stars
This book was highly recommended to me by a friend and I'm so glad I picked it up. The Midwife's Tale is a beautifully written debut novel. Poignant, raw and sometimes shocking, it portrays with honesty and emotion the realities of life in rural Virginia in the early 1900's. Narrated by Elizabeth, a midwife like her mother and grandmother before her, we experience heartache, love and hardships alongside this strong, compassionate character.

Descriptive birthings, timeworn herbal remedies
Jun 24, 2009 Keeley rated it liked it
I picked this up when last at the library because I am free to read what I want and because it was in the section I was browsing through. I didn't really have expectations about this book, so I am wondering why I feel dissappointed about the story.I thought that Mrs. Laskas did an excellent job of researching the subject matter and making you feel like you were peering through a window in time. Her portrayal of Elizabeths emotions was perfect. I was happy, sad, angry and bewildered right along w ...more
Nov 29, 2013 Francoise rated it really liked it
This is the story of a young woman in rural West Virginia of the early 20th century. Daughter of a midwife who is the daughter of a midwife, she herself catches babies until the pain of her own barrenness and the pain of what midwives do with unwanted babies is too much to bear and she just stops. She goes through the change at 32. She had left home as a young woman to live with a widower she has always desperately loved. She cares for hima nd raises his miracle daughter Lauren. He appreciates h ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Pat rated it liked it
Elizabeth Denniker, living in the hills of West Virginia, is to follow in her mother's, grandmother's, and great-grandmother's footsteps and be a midwife. Following her through the years, seeing her decision to alter her path, and watching the results of her choices make for an interesting story. Gretchen Moran Laskas does an admirable job of catching the sound and nuanced voices of the West Virginia hill country, and Elizabeth's voice rings loud and clear.
Priscilla Herrington
Mar 09, 2015 Priscilla Herrington rated it really liked it
Set in Appalachia, The Midwife's Tale is the story of Elizabeth Whitely, who learned to be a midwife from working alongside her mother until she could deliver a baby on her own. We meet Elizabeth in 1913, when she is 15, in Kettle Creek, West Virginia.

the Midwife's Tale is rich in the traditions, superstitions and mythology of the time and place, told a only a native daughter can share her cultural heritage.
Oct 15, 2010 Jessica rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. Honest I did. It was gritty and raw and it had its poignant moments. There were also moments where I knew the author wanted me to cry and I would sit there and try to muster some tears and I didn't manage so much as a sting of tears. Mostly I think this book had an identity crisis. I like the first 1/3 that dealt with Elizabeth learning to be a midwife and then the plot changed to deal with her dysfunctional relationship with a man that I grew to hate. When the plot t ...more
Aug 27, 2010 John rated it really liked it
This novel tells the story of a midwife working in rural West Virginia during the flu pandemic of the early 20th century. The characters are real enough to touch, and the reader can feel the wilderness of the community the story takes place in. And, when the midwife is delivering a baby, you are in the room with them.

The up-close account of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic -- albeit fictional -- is startling, considering most Americans don't realize that influenza used to be deadly (and in some pl
Jul 16, 2014 Kaethe rated it it was amazing
So evocative of time and place. Laskas does a marvelous job writing on a topic which can veer into the dogmatic. I love stories about mothers and daughters through the generations, and this is a particularly good one. And it's always such a relief to read a story set in the Appalachians that doesn't rely on stock stereotypes.
Anna Engel
Jan 07, 2016 Anna Engel rated it it was ok
[2.5 stars]

I generally don't read books about mothers and daughters or women and their relationships. Bleh. Boring. "Midwife's Tale" wasn't bad, but it wasn't very good either. Its West Virginia-ness was horribly forced and the narrator is boring.
Jun 16, 2014 Auralia rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book. it did have a bit of mysticism in it but I think it added to the story. Set in Appalachia this story is about a young woman who comes from a line of midwives. The story chronicles her life not just midwifery. I really liked the glimpse into her world.
Jan Bailey
Set in America in early 20th century it is an intriguing story of a the women of a family who are midwives to their community. The skills passed down - no formal training. Plus the story of love and loss, infanticide and miracles.
Christine Schull
May 07, 2016 Christine Schull rated it really liked it
Beautiful story. It is set in rural West Virginia and takes the reader through a time of change and modernity while trying to find a balance with old traditions. Poverty and scarcity make the story all the more compelling.
Oct 06, 2014 Brandy rated it liked it
A friend recommended this to me and it was pretty good. It took place early 1900's in the mountains in WV. It was both a happy and sad book and had some real questionable morals to think about.
Jan 30, 2013 Debra rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The characters rang true to me. Although the time and place are unlike my life, it spoke to me in a very deep way. The midwifery is a big part of the book and definitely supports a really wonderful portraiture of womanhood in all its stage from girlhood to old age. . I was emotionally touched by so many themes: the desire to love and be loved in a profound way; the hunger to have a child and the wrenching pain of being barren while others have no problem conceiving; the inabil ...more
Feb 02, 2014 Alana rated it liked it
really enjoyed it. Very relatable as a women Also loved the fact its set back many years ago when things were very different. makes you realise how ott today's daily routines are.
Jan 30, 2014 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's an intimate, relationship-driven story about the life of a midwife in Appalachia. But the story ends up being more about creation than anything else--creation of children, creation of a town, creation of a life.

Simple yet says a lot. Absorbing.
Jan 10, 2010 Kristine rated it liked it
For me, this is in the same category as The Birth House because it contains interesting, fictional accounts of births, which I enjoyed, but also strange characters and events that almost made me stop reading the book once or twice. It is the story of a woman, Elizabeth, and her mother, who are local midwives in their small village in West Virginia/Appalachia in the early 1900s.

The strangeness comes in the introduction of a little girl who can heal people, an unlikely death and relationship, and
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