Published: January 31, 2017
Date Finished: January 14, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins
You might enjoy this book if you like: Stories about midwifery, novels set in small communities, books featuring a heroine of a "certain age"
Midwife Clara Perry is accustomed to comforting her pregnant patients…calming fathers-to-be as they anxiously await the birth of their children…ensuring the babies she delivers come safely into the world.
But when Clara’s life takes a nosedive, she realizes she hasn’t been tending to her own needs and does something drastic: she runs away and starts over again in a place where no one knows her or the mess she’s left behind in West Virginia. Heading to Sea Gull Island—a tiny, remote Canadian island—Clara is ready for anything. Well, almost. She left her passport back home, and the only way she can enter Canada is by hitching a ride on a snowmobile and illegally crossing the border.
Deciding to reinvent herself, Clara takes a new identity—Sara Livingston, a writer seeking solitude. But there’s no avoiding the outside world. The residents are friendly, and draw “Sara” into their lives and confidences. She volunteers at the local medical clinic, using her midwifery skills, and forms a tentative relationship with a local police officer.
But what will happen if she lets down her guard and reveals the real reason why she left her old life? One lesson soon becomes clear: no matter how far you run, you can never really hide from your past.
I became a fan of Patricia Harman's after reading her first two books, The Midwife of Hope River and The Reluctant Midwife, both of which were historical novels set in the first half of the 20th centure. I will admit I went into this book thinking it was the 3rd in a series. Perhaps, technically, it is. If so, it is the standalonest standalone in a series I've ever read.
Unlike the first two novels, this one is set in the present day and, although Clara hails from West Virginia (the setting of the previous two books), the bulk of this novel takes place on a Canadian island in Lake Erie. I was surprised by this when I started, but I quickly realized that the world Harman created in her first two novels wouldn't exist in the present day, and the world of this Island (which reminded me of the Avonlea) is, at least, in the same vein.
The highlight for me was the community that she creates on this island. It is filled with quirky characters, each with their own stories and their own prejudices. Harman doesn't fall into the trap of creating some sort of utopia--instead, this is a true-to-live community with its own problems. It is also a place I want very much to visit--the descriptions are vivid and picturesque and it sounds like the perfect place to find peace and solitude.
I quite liked Clara as a main character. At the beginning of the book, she is in dire straights and she deals with the state of her life throughout the book. She experiences quite a bit of growth as the book progresses and I rooted for her the entire time--and I would be more than happy to hear about her further adventures in later books.
The book, however, was not perfect. I truly enjoyed reading about Clara and the life of the island, but I found the story be a bit plot-light. Or maybe I found it to be a bit plot-distracted. There were a number of possible things to push the story along--Clara's life on the run, a property dispute, a decades old cold case, but nothing really gelled as the central motivation for this story. If you are a character person, this might not bother you. However, if you need a clear plot for your novels, this is an obstacle.
I also found the ending a bit to easy. I'm not saying I didn't like how it ended, I just felt that all the pieces fell together a little too quickly and that a jump was made that sort of came out of nowhere--and it was something that I would have enjoyed reading more about in the rest of the book. It was a strange experience, liking the ending, but not being sure how we got there and I wish that I had been left with a different feeling when I turned the last page.
I would still recommend this book as there is much to like about it. However, I probably wouldn't pass it onto one of my more critical reader friends who might be likely to notice the same things that I did.
Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculties of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She is the author of two acclaimed memoirs and the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River. She has three sons and lives near Morgantown, West Virginia.
Find out more about Patricia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.
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