Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Midwife's Tale by Gretchen Moran Laskas

Genre: Historical Fiction
Copyright: 2003
Pages: 243
Book Source: Library borrow

“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 with herbals, experience, and wisdom. But Elizabeth, who has comforted so many, has lost her heart to the one man who cannot reciprocate, even when she moves into his home to share his bed and raise his child.

Then Lauren Denniker, Elizabeth’s adopted daughter, begins to display a miraculous gift--just as Elizabeth learns that she herself is unable to have a child. How Elizabeth comes to free herself from a loveless relationship, grapple with Lauren’s astonishing abilities, and come to terms with her own emptiness is the compelling heart of this remarkable tale. Incorporating the spirited mountain mythology of prewar Appalachia, Gretchen Laskas has crafted a story as true to our time as its own, and a cast of characters as poignant as they are entirely original.

This book came highly recommended by Alaine Queen of Happy Endings 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, sage advice and complex relationships are woven together to create a very moving account. The author doesn't shy away from some of the grimmer aspects of midwifery, such as unwanted babies and newborn deaths, and while I'm sure it's time-true, be warned it does make for bleak reading.

Fear of a dry birth ate its way through my belly. My herbals were useless. I had given her blueberry root and hardhack. I'd forced bitter summer cohosh straight down her throat. Now there was nothing to do but wait. (page 34)

As much as I had once loved this man, I would have loved his baby more. That Alvin thought my love for him greater than my want for a child was strange knowledge, but like a spring tonic, I swallowed it and was made stronger. (page 145)

I loved sharing the wide spectrum of emotions that Elizabeth experiences in her relationships; with her mother, grandmother, her friend Ivy, and the men in her life. With much of her life shadowed in sorrow, it's truly heartwarming when Elizabeth eventually finds love and happiness.

As a lover of stories centred around midwifery or healing The Midwife's Tale certainly ticked all the boxes for me.

Visit the author's website to find out more.


  1. Sounds like a warm book, great review :)

  2. Great review Sheree! Yes I agree it was a great book.

  3. Lovely Review Sheree! Sounds like a heartwarming and emotional read. ;)


  4. I like books having to do with birth and midwifery too. This sounds great!

  5. This sounds fascinating -- thanks for the recommendation!

  6. I really must read this book. It seems that all your check boxes are the same as mine. :)

    I am putting this one on my list. Thanks for pointing me towards your review...I am not certain how I missed it.


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