Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Review: Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

Midwife of the Blue Ridge
Author: Christine Blevins
Publisher: Berkley Trade (Aug. 5, 2008)
Paperback, $14.00
ISBN-10: 0425221687
ISBN-13: 978-0425221686

As the sole survivor of a vicious attack on her village, Maggie Duncan is viewed by many in Black Corries, Scotland as a harbinger of bad luck. But Hannah Cameron, grateful to young Maggie for bringing her mortally wounded husband home to her, adopts the young girl. Hannah is a midwife and she soon teaches her healing skills to Maggie.

After Hannah’s death, Maggie finds herself in a difficult position. The people of Black Corries are very superstitious and blame her for Hannah’s death. Believing that Maggie possesses the “evil eye”, most of the villagers steer clear of her. When she’s offered a chance to sail to America to become an indentured servant, Maggie quickly agrees. Four years of work as an indentured servant seems a small price to pay for the promise of a new start in colonial America.

But the New World holds new dangers for Maggie. As settlers venture deeper into Indian territory, unrest grows within the local tribes. Indian raids are a constant threat. Illness can claim a person’s life swiftly, something Maggie is acutely aware of in her work as a midwife.

Along with the danger comes opportunity. Maggie’s skills as both a midwife and a healer are invaluable to the community. And when Tom Roberts, a vagabond hunter, starts to show romantic interest in Maggie, she begins to dream of a free life with him. Soon, however, Maggie will find her courage to survive in this new world tested as never before.

The Midwife of Blue Ridge is certainly a page-turner, but I found myself disappointed with several elements of the story. The crude language used throughout really distracted me from the main storyline. There were detailed descriptions of men urinating, numerous references to flatulence, etc. that I felt added little to the story. (One of the chapters of the book is entitled “Turds and Primroses.” While I appreciate that the author was trying to show the reality of frontier living, I often thought that these descriptions ventured into the realm of TMI – too much information.)

I liked Maggie’s character quite a bit, but I never felt a strong emotional connection to her. Several traumatic, emotional scenes are written in such a way that the reader feels like an outside observer. I really wanted to get inside Maggie’s head and know how these events affected her, but I felt that I was never given that opportunity. Events that should have had a lasting psychological impact were left largely unexplored.

The descriptions of medical treatment in colonial times were fascinating and they became one of my favorite things about Midwife of the Blue Ridge. There were lots of great little details like the use of spider webs to stanch bleeding or yarrow to ease the pain of a burn.

I felt that there was some unrealized potential with Midwife of the Blue Ridge, but I would not hesitate to read a future offering from Ms. Blevins.

Rating: 6/10

Buy The Midwife of Blue Ridge:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon


  1. Ruth, great review.

    I had to smile at your discussion of the language. I've not read this book but I think that might distract me, too.

    I've experienced the same thing with being unable to connect emotionally to a character, even though I like him/her. It always makes me wonder if it's just me.

  2. I enjoyed reading your review very much. I like to see honest opinions. I read and reviewed Midwife too recently.

  3. Shana, thanks! I always feel absolutely dreadful when I write a less-than-glowing review.

    I'm really very sensitive about coarse language and/or bathroom humor. It's just something I've never liked in any medium -- television, movies, books, anything. I can usually look past it, but I found that difficult with this book. It could be just me, though. I'll have to look up some of the other reviews and see if anyone else had a similar reaction.

  4. Sandra, thank you! I always feel bad for writing less-than-glowing reviews. But at the same time, those are the same kind of reviews that are often the most helpful to me as a reader. I'm off to read your review!

  5. Wonderful review! I think all the TMI bits would be too distracting for me. I love it when a writer gets things just right with few words, and I dislike it when they go on and on and on about things that aren't necessary.

    Personally, I think it's important to be able to connect with the main character, otherwise you don't really care what happens to them.

  6. Turds and primroses? I hate crude language so thanks on the heads up on this one.

  7. I've got this on reserve at the library. I'm anxious to read it too. Thanks for the descriptive language heads-up. I have a hard time with things like that too.

  8. Great review. This is one I'd like to read. I don't like books though where it's hard to connect to the characters.

  9. Like you, there were things about this book I enjoyed, and things about this book I really didn't care for. And I felt so bad for writing a less-than-positive review, since the author was so nice to send the book to me and sign it and everything. But I felt like we didn't get to really see inside Maggie's head or her heart. Great review!