The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth; publishing February 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Review in a word: Yes.
- How important is a father?
- What’s more harmful—a damaged family, or keeping the damage a secret?
Opening line: “I suppose you could say I was born to be a midwife.”
Neva is third in a line of midwives, preceded by her grandmother, Floss, and her mother, Grace. When Floss and Grace suddenly, unintentionally, find out that Neva is pregnant, they are thrown for a loop. But when she declares that the baby has no father, the secrets from their pasts start to come to light. The thing is, Neva’s situation bears a haunting similarity to Floss’s many years before.
The story is told alternating between the viewpoints of the three women, and it’s skillfully done. We’re brought to the 1950s English countryside where Floss is working as a young midwife, trying to save her friend whose husband is abusing her. Grace makes a controversial decision during a birth that leads to an investigation into her practices as a midwife. Neva stubbornly refuses to say who the father of her baby is, even though it means she may lose Patrick, the OBGYN who, she’s realizing, has never been just a friend.
This was everything I wanted. It’s a story of the sisterhood of mothers. It’s about the beauty of birth, and the innocence of babies. It’s about women who have more strength than they realize.
But it’s also about fathers, whose presence was felt solidly throughout the book, despite there being no male narrators. Grace is the only woman in the story who is married, and although her relationship with Robert isn’t perfect, Robert is a special influence in Neva’s life. Robert is able to reach her where Grace’s efforts fall short.
And Patrick. Patrick obviously loves Neva, so much so that he offers to pretend to be the baby’s father so that Neva doesn’t have to deal with the uncomfortable questions that she doesn’t want to answer. When her daughter, Mietta, is born, Patrick adopts her as his own.
Yep, I cried. And I’ll be passing this one on to my mom to read.
Recommend? Without a doubt!
What I’m Reading Next:
Night Blindness by Susan Strecker
You might also like:
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
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