Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Orphan Mother” as Want to Read:
The Orphan Mother
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book

The Orphan Mother

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,685 ratings  ·  296 reviews
An epic account of one remarkable woman's quest for justice from the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country.

In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambiti
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Grand Central Publishing
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Orphan Mother, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Bert Stanaland I saw one "F" word and there were other cuss words. No sex.…moreI saw one "F" word and there were other cuss words. No sex.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,685 ratings  ·  296 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Orphan Mother
This is a superb historical fiction novel that is beautifully written. It revolves around the themes of motherhood, love, loss, racism, relationships, the drive to fight injustice and the ability to accept the truth for what it is. It is a a study of the South in a period of flux and people are struggling to adjust to a new reality. It is 1867, the Civil War is over. Mariah is no longer Carrie McGavock's slave, she is a free woman. She is standing on her own two feet, she makes a successful livi ...more
WOW! THE ORPHAN MOTHER grabbed me at the get-go, and my attention never waned!

Once again, Robert Hicks mixes fact with fiction and takes us back to Franklin, Tennessee, the Carnton estate and The Widow of the South, Carrie McGavock, but this time, it's not her story.

It's July 2, 1867 and the bloody Civil War is over......but definitely not the fight. One minute midwife (and former slave) Mariah Reddick is saving a newborn's life, and the next we're at a rally; there's a mob, chaos, brutal beatin

Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, 2016, netgalley
4.5 Stars

Beautifully written historical fiction story set in the post-Civil-war era in Franklin, Tennessee. Focusing primarily on Mariah Reddick, former slave of Carrie McGavock, her son, Theopolis, and George Tole, the story is about loss, love, racism, and change. How the loss of one life affects more than the one person, and the changes that brings about both internally and externally. While the Prologue begins with the year 1912, the story really begins many years prior to that in 1867, with
Diane S ☔
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Civil War has ended and the period known as Reconstruction has begun. Black are now free, but are they really? Since Hick's The Widow of the South ended, Mariah is now living in her own house in Franklin, TN. The town's midwife, her son now grown is the town's shoemaker. The blacks are owning their own businesses, owning their own property but many white do not like this, do not like seeing them prosper, forming their own communities. After a day of speeches that will leave both a white man ...more
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A high 4 stars. I have said this before, but I am a finicky reader of historical fiction. I like books that teach me something about the history, culture and politics of another time and place, but I often find that historical fiction trivializes history or improbably imprints current sensibilities on characters and events. So I was nervous when I started reading The Orphan Mother but became curious about this book after reading GR friend Diane's enthusiastic review. And I'm so glad to have take ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it

This is an interesting and well written account of one woman's mission to find justice for the murder of her only son.

I hadn't read Robert Hick's previous novel The Widow of the South which featured the character of Mariah Reddick and was afraid I would be at a disadvantage but happy to report this can be read as a stand alone novel.

In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwi
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
To read more of my reviews, please go to Lit. Wit. Wine & Dine.

Having not read The Widow of the South, I was concerned that I may have difficulty following along with The Orphan Mother. Thankfully, it is easily read as a stand-alone novel and I'm now inspired to read The Widow of the South.

Mariah Reddick is the former slave to Carrie McGavock. Since becoming a free woman, she has established herself as a competent and respected midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. Her grown son, Theopol
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
3.5 or 3.75 rounded up. I went into this one with such high hopes, and while parts were extremely well-done, others fell a little flat for me. Hicks' writing of Mariah's loss of her son was poignant, and Mariah, Tole, Carrie, and Theopolis were beautifully written characters. I found the pacing to be a little slow, and I kept wishing for more...more action, more depth, more something. So much potential here, but it ended up being a like, not a love. Thanks to TeddyRose, the publisher, and the au ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this post Civil War era novel about Mariah Reddick who is a former slave to Carrie McGavock who was first introduced in The Widow of the South. This novel was full of heartbreak and conflict and definitely worth reading if you're interested in learning more about what life was like after the Civil War. ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Franklin, Tennessee. 1867. Two years after the Civil War ends. Newly freed slaves try to establish their rights amidst a climate of Confederate unrest. Theopolis Reddick, a highly regarded cobbler and former slave has political aspirations. He will take the stage at the courthouse square joining white politician Elijah Dixon and Dixon's rival Jesse Bliss.

Theo is the son of town midwife and freed slave Mariah Reddick. Mariah grew up as slave/companion to Carrie McGavock. Mariah has a reputation a
Nov 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Very difficult book to review, IMHO. You know Mariah. You can feel her dichotomy of life's work and how that is reflected back by the larger society. In other words, the complex levels of rejection and acceptance on so many varying physical and individual planes.

And yet, the sorrow, the chaos of the times, which was so often vicious and not always at the same time visible? There is something here in post war Franklin that seems not of the 1860's or 1870's or even of the 40 or 50 years beyond.

Patricia Romero
Mr. Hicks has given us more of "The Widow of the South" with "The Orphan Mother".

The year is 1867. The war is over and the South is having to adjust, including Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South". Mariah is a free woman now. She is dependent on no one and has her own home and a thriving Midwife business. She tells herself that she built the town of Franklin, Tennessee by delivering all of those lives into the world

Her only child, Theopolis, has made a name f
Ammara Abid
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'll write about it later.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! So well written and engaging. I recently took a road trip to TN and visited Franklin and the Carnton plantation so that added to the enjoyment of reading this book.
Holly Weiss
Prologue 1912. Mariah Reddick, having made a sizable donation to the university, receives four male representatives from the administration. Awed by the amount of the endowment, they want to name their new library or chapel after her. Mariah staunchly refuses, indicating that the amount of her fortune says nothing about her life. Her hope is that by making the Negro university better, she might make the world a better place for Negroes and whites.

July 2, 1867. The story is told by two narrators,
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love Civil War-era novels – pre and post – and was excited when I stumbled upon this in my indie bookstore a few years back. This is an important story about equality, motherhood, love, and racial tensions following the Civil War.

The writing is gorgeous, and the themes are juxtaposed so cleverly – a main character midwife associated with birth and mothering mirrored by events associated with death; hope interwoven with despair; love interwoven with hate.

While the story was fascinating and the
Dan Radovich
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Readers of Hicks' earlier work, WIDOW OF THE SOUTH, will be pleased to go back to Carnton for this tale of Mariah Reddick, freed slave. Mariah is the midwife to the women of Franklin, TN where she has lived a peaceful life. Her life is upended when her only child is shot dead at a political rally. This is a finely detailed piece of fiction, detailing life in the South in the years after the Civil War until the early 1910's. Mariah begins a search for her son's killer that makes her confront her ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-novel
Reconstruction was nearly as brutal, frightening, and restrictive as bondage for freed slaves who stayed in the South. This novel contains a lot of violence and grief, but also a lot of tenderness and humor. The pages fly by. This is a sequel to The Widow of the South, which I haven’t read, but that didn’t hurt my enjoyment in the least.

Hicks begins the book brilliantly in 1912 with some exceedingly good news for freed slave,90-year-old Mariah Reddick, a midwife. He then jumps back to 1867 for
Lorrie McCullers
I absolutely loved The Widow of the South so I was excited for the opportunity to read "The Orphan Mother". However, I felt a little disappointed with Hicks' latest effort. The book just didn't hold my attention the same way that "The Widow of the South" or "A Separate Country" did.

I just couldn't care that much about the characters. Mariah Reddick, former slave of Carrie McGavock, loses her son in a horrible murder, but she remains entirely too stoic. I understand that it's part of her persona
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
After the civil war ended, former slave Mariah Reddick struggled to build a FREE life for herself. She works as the sole midwife in Franklin, Tennessee and life is tolerable… hard, but tolerable, that is until someone murders her only son. Mariah is no stranger to heartache, but the pain of losing her son sets off a chain of events that will change her and every person living in this southern community. Readers who loved “The Widow of the South” by author Robert Hicks will delight in revisiting ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Historical fiction is my jam. I love it and read a lot of it. This book was such a disappointment and while reading it I kept asking myself why I hated it. I think it is because it was more soap opera drama (twists, turns, betrayal, racism, love) and less what I like about historical fiction - the realness.
I had such high hopes for this book, but I found it to be an incredibly difficult read to get into at first. The characters felt a bit flat and one-dimensional and the story felt somewhat contrived and formulaic. I liked the overall premise of the story but just felt it went nowhere or perhaps I was just expecting too much after hearing all the praise and reading other reviews.
Penny (Literary Hoarders)
Excellent read! I have The Widow of the South sitting on my shelf and it contains many of the same characters in The Orphan Mother. Notably, focusing on Mariah, the "widow of the south's" former slave. It's been two-three years since the end of the Civil War but tensions still run high in Franklin. Mariah's son Theopolis is excited to be part of the Reconstruction and is eager to speak in the town's centre one day. Sadly for Theopolis, the white man is not as eager and he is pulled from the stag ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading this novel restoreth my hope. It was not an easy read. So many times I had to put the book down, so soon after just picking it up, to just once again stare at nothing. My soul was searched, I thought about things I haven't thought of before, and I was comforted to know that I was not alone in so many of my thoughts. The story of freedwoman, Mariah, and her former mistress, Carrie, was multi-dimensional exploring what it's like to be childhood friends, turned adult slave & master, to free ...more
Pam Walter
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I saw this book as a new release at the library and, having read Robert Hicks' earlier book The Widow of the South, was instantly interested. Widow of the South takes place during the civil war, and "The Orphan Mother" follows some of the same characters into the 'Reconstruction Era'. The protagonist in this book is Mariah Reddick, who in Widow of the South was a slave in the household of Carrie McGavock (The Widow of the South). Mariah is a midwife, and lives near her only child Theopolis in th ...more
Danielle Woods
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting and hear the author speak about this book. I was worried it was going to be another one of "those black/white/racial" books. After hearing him speak, I knew it was going to be different.

We are taken into the lives of Mariah, a freed slave, whom is now a midwife. Tole, a black man whom fought in the war and carries the burden of the death of his wife and son, the men he's killed on the battle field and his alcoholism. Mariah brings life into the world (black and whit
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written story.
Stephanie Froebel
Nov 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
To me, this book felt like a bunch of random characters and a bunch of random events that never really mixed to a heartfelt story.
Sam Sattler
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Orphan Mother is the third Civil War era novel from Robert Hicks. While not strictly meeting the definition of a trilogy, each of the three novels focuses on participants in the bloody 1864 Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.

The first of the three books, The Widow of the South, tells the story of Carrie McGavock, mistress of the Carnton Plantation house and the property on which she personally cared for and preserved the graves of some 1,500 casualties (from both armies) of the nearby battle. Mc
Starting in 1912, the bequest from former slave Mariah Reddick is substantial enough to construct a chapel or a library. Representatives from this black university wish for the building to be named for her, an honor she refuses. It is not who she is that makes the gift possible, it is the journeys that she and others took to get there, and her wish that opportunities for more and different be afforded to others.

Slowly from here, we are told of her story as I unfolded during the years after the
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Garden of Burning Sand
  • The Dopeman's Wife (The Dopeman, #1)
  • Ya Yas in Bloom
  • The Beauty in Breaking
  • Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn
  • German Boy: A Child in War
  • Invisible Girl
  • The Man in Lower Ten
  • The Daughter's Walk
  • Deceived: An Investigative Memoir of the Zion Society Cult
  • Dragon Bones (Red Princess, #3)
  • Twenty (Jack Swyteck, #17)
  • Theater Shoes (Shoes, #4)
  • Under the Tulip Tree
  • The Golden Orchard
  • Little Night
  • The Moth and the Mountain: A True Story of Love, War, and Everest
See similar books…
Robert Hicks has been active in the music industry in Nashville for twenty years as both a music publisher and artist manager. The driving force behind the perservation and restoration of the historic Carnton plantation in Tennessee, he stumbled upon the extraordinary role that Carrie McGavock played during and after the Battle of Franklin. He is the author of The Widow of the South and A Separat ...more

News & Interviews

We all want to spend more time lost in the pages of great books. That's the idea behind our annual 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge! It's...
84 likes · 11 comments
“of lumbermen who called the town home, had only grudgingly returned from the” 1 likes
“I ain’t much for advice. Never been any good with words the way some men are. But I know, sometimes the tears just don’t come. When the time comes to start healin’, you oughta let yourself.” 1 likes
More quotes…