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The Midwife's Tale

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  926 ratings  ·  120 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, 256 pages
Published March 2nd 2004 by Delta (first published April 1st 2003)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  926 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
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 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 19, 2013 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....
Tricia Howard
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was beautifully written and the author is a wonderful storyteller. It had a personal connection for me as my grandmother was born around the same time as the main character and both lived in rural settings. It was interesting to learn what life was like during that time through the eyes of a woman.
May 18, 2010 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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 24, 2009 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 ...more
Jul 04, 2009 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.
Jan 27, 2009 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
Oct 08, 2007 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.
Jan 01, 2014 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 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.
Jul 31, 2008 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.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it liked it
The first half of this book was interesting and intriguing. I loved the midwife stories. The unrequited love part wasn't as good but overall I loved the beautiful writing, the historical fiction and the perspective of this group of characters. The book lost steam in the second half, however. The last half of the book seemed very unrelated to the first half and it really just wasn't as good. For that reason I'm just going to give it an overall 3 stars.
Ironical Dins
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found myself loving this story, and I didn't have much expectations of it to begin with. While yes, I did find the main character a little hard to like sometimes, I enjoy unlikeable characters as they're often more true to life. The author takes the same approach to the role of a midwife during this time and in this place, and doesn't romanticize it. Worth a read.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a good midwifery fiction book, then please look into this one. Set in the mountains of Kettle Creek, West Virginia, Elizabeth Whitley tells her story of becoming a midwife in the late 1920s and early 1930s. From stillborn babies, influenza epidemic, unrequited love and even miracles, this book is full of information. My attention was held from the very first page.
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Disappointing oral history of a midwife’s daughter who loved a married man, became a midwife herself, lost it all, and finally found love.
Feb 28, 2010 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
Nov 29, 2013 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 ...more
Rebecca Elswick
Jul 08, 2014 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 ...more
Oct 15, 2010 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 ...more
Jul 24, 2010 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
Jan 03, 2010 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
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This author is truly gifted. She has written a fine book that you will enjoy and ponder. It's about a community of people who have lived the way they do for generations. While I read this I felt myself slip inside this book as if it was an alternate home for me to live in. I know a great author has been born when that authors' writing transports me into the era they've written about and I can experience the emotions, feelings, atmosphere and the physical items or acts the
Jan 29, 2013 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 ...more
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Elizabeth Whitely is a fourth generation (at least) midwife. This feels really kind of incidental to the story - it feels much more about one woman's relationship with her mother, her history, her community and herself.

The description of the book lead me to assume that her daughter's miraculous abilities would play a larger role in the story than it actually did. It felt like a cautionary tale as well - getting the appearance of what you want isn't the same as getting what you actually need.

Janet Smart
Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This story takes place in early 1900s West Virginia. It tells the story of young midwife, her mother and grandmother, all of whom are midwives. Aside from a few times when I was confused with her writing and had to read twice to ascertain whether she was writing about past or present, it is a very good read. It is very descriptive in the telling of the births attended by them. At times I was a little upset with the main character, but liked the ending very much. If you like historical fiction, ...more
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book had some uncomfortable parts but the story was gripping and the writing superb. I loved the descriptions and characteristics that came through the storytellers words. It's a story of relationships between mothers and daughters as well as husbands and wives. The midwives had to do some yucky stuff (like "dealing" with unwanted babies) so that part was horrible but that aside, I loved the book!
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This story was so very interesting. I was moved, surprised, touched and entertained. Although the story would be improbable to many, I love to believe that there are still miracles. It brought back to me many of the same feelings as when I read "Peace Like a River". I fell in love with many of the characters, while coming to heartily dislike some of the others. Lots of detail made things seem real also. She writes beautifully and descriptively.
Priscilla Herrington
Mar 09, 2015 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.
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