Friday, October 28, 2016

REVIEW: Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

Midwife of the Blue Ridge
by Christine Blevins

Publisher: Berkley
Page Count: 417
Release Date: August 5, 2008
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal buy via Amazon; used

First attention getter: subject and enjoyed author's previous works

Synopsis:

From GoodReads:

From the villages of eighteenth-century Scotland to the colonies of America, Christine Blevins takes us on a richly imagined, perilous adventure, as one woman seeks the life she deserves...

They called her Dark Maggie for her thick black hair, but the name also had a more sinister connotation. As the lone survivor of an attack on her village, she was thought to be cursed—and unfit for marriage.

Maggie is not cursed but gifted with quick wits, skilled in medicine, and trained as a midwife. Venturing to the colonies as an indentured servant, she hopes to escape the superstitions of the old country, help women bring new life into the world, even in the most primitive and isolated corners of an unsettled land—and find a home of her own.

What she discovers is a New World fraught with new dangers—and, having given up her own freedom to join a people that yearn to be free, she must rely on her talent for survival now more than ever...

My Thoughts:

Star Rating
- 3.5

I've been on a historical midwife and witch kick lately, so this book was right up my alley. It's actually been on my to-shelf for years, at least two. So I figured it was time to give it a go. It proved to be a fairly enjoyable read with a great main character and fascinating historical storyline with unknown elements for me. Despite a few hitches, I would feel comfortable recommending this book on to others.

I adored the historical story explored in this book. Information about indentured servants and the back country of Appalachia are not often represented in historical fiction. The author gives a ton of details about how the indentured servant system worked and how it impacted all the parties involved, both the servants themselves and the bidders for their contracts. She also makes the rough life on the frontier in the 1700s come alive. Abundant details on daily life illustrate how tough it was to survive in this wild environment, where either the weather or the natives could take your life easily. The author does a great job at making the reader viscerally experience both aspects of the history explored.

Maggie made this novel for me; she's tough, courageous, and practical. She comes from a harsh background to create a life in a new world equally as harsh. Death and despair are common occurrences in her life. However, Maggie doesn't let that drag her down. I loved the way she approached the hardships in her life, with grit and a sensible outlook on life. I found elements of my own personality in hers and so found her all the more relatable.

Most of the secondary characters and the main male lead, Tom, were as distinct an individual as Maggie. I loved Tom. He stands out as a rugged, courageous man comfortable in the wilds of frontier North America and within his own skin. I also grew to love Maggie's indentured family whom she served and the rest of the inhabitants of the nearby town.

However, one of the hitches of this book fell in this area. The main villain came off as a caricature for the most part. He's over-the-top, to the point of un-believability. Let's just say that if the railroad had existed in this time, I could have seen this villain tying Maggie up and doing a Snidely Whiplash routine like the cartoon. There would have been much mustache twirling going on. This exaggeration of his character detracted from my enjoyment of his scenes and role in the book.

My other problem with this book has to do a bit with the villain and his scenes with Maggie. The story goes into some very dark places; yet, I expected that from reading other reviews. In fact, that was one of the reasons I hadn't picked up this novel till this point. After reading this book, I feel that some of what happened to Maggie at his hands were over-the-top, like his characterization. I felt the story would have held as much weight without these unnecessary brutal scenes. I don't fault scenes like these being in historical fiction titles; brutal things like this did happen. Yet, the ones included with this book seemed unnecessary with the rest of the narrative flow.

Despite a few hiccups with unnecessary scenes and a two dimensional villain, this book was an enjoyable journey into colonial frontier America. A strong main character leads the cast of equally strong secondary characters to make the reader live the story, not just read it. The fact that the author explores unfamiliar historical details and stories is just icing on the top for me. I would feel very comfortable recommending this book to friends and family, especially if you have an interest in colonial America fiction.

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