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General Fiction Review     

 

The Midwife's Tale
By Gretchen Moran Laskas
The Dial Press, 2003
Hardcover, $23.95 (243 pages)
ISBN: 0-386-33551-2
 
 
 

 

"I came from a long line of midwives ...... 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 Whiteley's family have known the family secrets of most of the families in Kettle Valley, West Virginia. As midwives, they've witnessed joyous, welcomed births, as well as the disappearances of unwanted babies.  After observing her mother performing "a midwife's mercy,' Elizabeth runs away to live at her granny's house the one place her mama is likely to leave her alone. 

The one certainty in Elizabeth's life is the fact she's always wanted to marry Alvin Denniker, a man who plays the fiddle and whose family has farmed the highest peak of Denniker's Mountain for generations. When his foreign-born wife, Ivy, has complications with the birth of her first child, Elizabeth is forced back into the family business. In her gratitude Ivy names her daughter Lauren Elizabeth. 

Once Elizabeth realizes her D.N.A. is her destiny, she listens to all of her granny's stories about herbals and her mother's parables explaining her experience. While she may not be able to follow her own heart, she learns how to comfort other women's hearts. 

The Midwife's Tale is a novel about change -- in women's lives, in small communities, and in the decline of midwifery. Laskas knows her craft. Her first novel is engaging and satisfying. 

Gretchen Moran Laskas, an eighth-generation West Virginian, currently lives in Virginia with her husband and son.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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