Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Midwife's Tale - A Book Review

When you've read as many books as I have in my lifetime, it's very hard to start a book and not be able to have it basically figured out within the first few chapters. It seems most books follow a very set pattern and once you've learned that pattern, you basically know the structure of the story. Granted, each author weaves their characters and the details of their lives differently from each other but the general formula for fiction seems to be straight forward. 

Beautiful Cover Art
This book, however, left me unsure how things were going to end right until the very end. Even then, as I read the last chapter, I knew that I wanted to see a sequel to this story. While the book left many unanswered questions that I want to see answered, it wasn't because the author did a poor job of writing. Instead, Delia Parr does a masterful job of creating both primary and secondary characters who the reader can get invested in so that when this particular chapter of their lives are completed, you want to know what happens beyond the last page. You know there's more story to tell and you want to read it - a sign of a great author. 

Martha Cades' story weaves several themes throughout the book: faith, forgiveness, trust, betrayal and the gifts that life offers us and how we must recognize them as such even when they aren't the gifts we would want for ourselves. Set in Western Pennsylvania in the 1830s, Martha is a widowed midwife who's independent, kindhearted and loyal. She also has her faults, however - she can be prideful and stubborn and has made many mistakes in the raising of her daughter. Each of these faults plays a part in this story and endear Martha to the reader as she herself is the one who reveals these faults in her own self reflections rather than by the reader viewing her actions. It allows the reader to see the growth Martha makes as she discovers these faults and how she chances them.

The lessons learned from this book if the reader is willing to open their heart and mind to them is so plentiful; this book goes way beyond just telling a simple story but instead taps into Christian theology much deeper than others. Luckily, these concepts and ideas are not preachy and in your face but instead are very subtly mentioned and require the reader to reflect deeper on their own for the full understanding of what the author is trying to portray. It's almost as if there are actual layers to this story; the basic words on the page that anyone can read and then the real story if you actual think beyond the page. That's not to say this isn't an easy, enjoyable read, it absolutely is and I would highly recommend this book to anyone as Delia Parr is an excellent writer who weaves a story seamlessly and with such skills that you become immersed in 19th century Pennsylvania. 

It's very rare that I give a book a 5 star rating but this particular novel, I think a 5 star is warranted. With superb story telling, complex characters and ideas beyond just what is on the surface, this book will really get you to think. It is not just a mindless read to pass the time but is indeed an experience and I look forward to reading more books by Delia Parr in the future. 

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