If you will recall, I read her debut novel last year and I liked it well enough to know that I'd be curious to read more of her work. I was excited to receive a copy of The Midwife in the mail, courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers. I noted that the book was not due to be released until this month (June) so I put it on the shelf to pull out in due time and was delighted to realize that the time had finally arrived. I plucked the book off the shelf and sat down to read and discovered myself unwilling to get back up again except for severe life interruptions. The Midwife is positively enthralling.
The story opens with an introduction to a young graduate student by the name of Elizabeth Winslow. She has volunteered to be a surrogate mother for one of her professors and his wife. However, complications have arisen with the pregnancy causing the biological parents to wonder if the child should ultimately be granted a chance at life. We flip back and forth between Elizabeth in the early 1990's to the present day where we observe Rhoda Mammau. Rhoda is the head midwife at Hopen Haus which is located in an Old Order Mennonite community. Hopen Haus operates as a place of refuge for single women who discover that they are pregnant. These women can come and live at the house at no charge while they are pregnant and receive prenatal care, boarding, and camaraderie, should they desire it. We meet several young ladies within the pages of The Midwife and the mystery of the book is how each one of their lives intersect.
This is a story of moral questions, "political" issues, relationships, forgiveness, hope and courage. The characters are developed over the course of the book and each chapter adds a layer to each person as well as to the major and minor plot lines. The story weaves back and forth from the 90's to the present day. Although the story is set in an Old Order Mennonite community, the focus of the book is not on the habits and practices of those members. The community merely provides the backdrop for the story which is largely focused on Rhoda, the head midwife. I want to be careful not to provide spoilers but I will tell you that Petersheim shocked me with her plot twist at the end. Brilliantly satisfying, if I do say so myself. (Heh.)
Petersheim wrote this story when she was pregnant and after she had suffered a miscarriage. Her love for a child in the womb is definitely strongly felt in this story. For me, the story was impacting from the perspective of just having completed an international adoption process (which lasted 2 1/2 years!). The idea of a child loved but given up for adoption definitely caught my attention and I felt for these single mothers who were struggling and alone as they were bringing dearly loved and wanted children into this world. I ached with characters who gave their babies up for adoption. I loved the birth mothers for making that choice because they knew it was the right one for them and for their child. I sympathized with their sense of loss because I think about both of my boys' birth mothers quite often. I think my sons' birth moms are amazingly strong women who have sacrificed their very hearts and consider myself in a partnership, of sorts, with them even though they do not know me. I will always be sharing a part of them and so I found the topic of adoption in this book both sad and heart warming. (Because it really is both.)
The Midwife can be labeled "Christian Fiction" which I normally don't read because I think the genre is typically written very poorly. However, I think Petersheim writes memorable stories well. If she did try to preach a sermon in the book, she didn't do it in words which I remember; she preached a sermon through thoughtful storytelling. I appreciate that very much and have no hesitations in offering this book up for your consideration.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER (as selected by Random.org) IS Bluerose's Heart. Congrats!
Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending a copy of this book my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are 150% my very own.