I've not read a Delia Parr book, but I've had the best intentions--I have several of her books on my kindle. I was pleased to get The Midwife's Tale to read and review, and it was a good introduction to her work.
Martha Cade returns to Trinity after delivering a baby to find that her daughter has run away with a theatrical troop, but she is immediately called away for another birth. She arrives to find that the doctor has already arrived and bled the mother. She leaves it to the mother to choose who will help deliver her baby and the mother chooses Martha. After the baby is born, Martha tries to follow her daughter only to lose her after she boards a ship for parts unknown. Throughout the novel, Martha helps those around her who need it without a second thought, including the new town doctor. She gets some unusual rewards for her services--including a bird with a broken wing.
Delia has written a book that really intrigues the reader. She has researched her subject well, including the methods of midwives and doctors of the era. She has included terminology common to the times--especially regarding pregnancy--teeming (expecting), grinding pains (earlier stages of labor), and forcing pains (final stages of labor when the baby is actually being born). She has also written an honest book in that Martha talks with God argumentatively, angrily, and finally submissively--she even allows Martha to share her wisdom with other hurting friends.
There is no real romance in this book, but it is an accounting of a quiet midwife living her life the best way she knew how. This is a work of fiction, but the people and events are totally believable. Some of my favorite characters are Fern and Ivy Lynn, two older sisters who own a bakery and make treats that make the mouth water. They are open and giving, but just a bit silly as older spinster sisters can be (I think of the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace--without the elderberry wine--when I think about these sisters). There is also a man and his wife masquerading as a minister who has taken in troubled and homeless boys, only to teach them to steal and fight. The relationship that develops between Martha and one of these boys is remarkable in that she falls in love with this boy, but it has not been written in a cloyingly sweet way. Trust is slow for the boy and yet she finds him a safe haven with a man who is going blind.
I really loved the descriptions of Martha's birthing chair that she took with her whenever she was called to a birthing. The father would sit in the chair with his wife on his legs letting gravity help bring the baby into the world. There was a place for the thighs to rest and a cut-out in the seat allowing the baby to enter the world unhindered.
Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a bakery treat that makes your mouth water.
My thanks to Bethany House for allowing me to read and review this book. I was under no obligation to give a good review, only an honest one.