In a refreshing break from current trends, A Midwife’s Tale follows Martha Cade through community struggles, family upheavals and spiritual growth all while faithfully performing the work she believes God has called her to. Set in 1830, Delia Parr has carefully researched the history of that era and delivers both an entertaining work of fiction as well as an educational picture of the early nineteenth century.
The Widow Cade, as Martha is fondly known in the small town of Trinity, Pennsylvania, learned midwifery from her grandmother who had served the village for decades before handing the job to Martha. She taught Martha not only the necessary skill to safely deliver babies and herbal medicine necessary to treat the women and children but she also passed a sense of duty and an understanding that his role of midwife was passed from mother to daughter. Unfortunately, Martha has been unable to instill the same sense in her own daughter.
A Midwife’s Tale is interwoven with a bit of mystery as an unknown thief runs loose in the area, a neighbor is exiled by accusations of dishonesty and a new ministry brings strangers into their midst. There is also the slightest hint of romance as Martha’s recently-widowed, childhood sweetheart moves in and out of her thoughts.
What I most enjoyed about this book was the reality of it. I learned things about history as she drove me to research some of the historical facts. I appreciated that Martha is so like me and so many other women I know – she longs to walk closely with The Lord yet she struggles with her own doubts and fears. Still, she continually goes back to God and confesses her sins and graciously accepts his redeeming grace.
Not every character in this book is strictly good or bad, much like us. And, both I as a reader, and the widow Cade are fooled by some which lends an air of authenticity to the characters.
If I had any complaint this book it would be in the ending. Everything seems to wrap up in the last few pages and I’ve just never found life to work that way – of course one of the reasons we read fiction is to escape some of reality and it is nice to hear “happily ever after”.
Bethany House, the publisher of A Midwife’s Tale, supplied a copy of this book for the purpose of review.