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By: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 2/10/2015
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Sally Hepworth’s THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES, is a beautifully written and emotional novel of family, motherhood, secrets, love and trust—where family does not always mean biological.
The multi-generational novel grabbed me from the first page, and held me until I reached the ending. What a great way to spend a Sunday after the busy Christmas holidays. So engaging, I had to finish in one day—totally captivating!
Three generations of women: (all lovable characters) All midwives: Grandmother-Floss; Mother-Grace; and Daughter-Neva. Even though Floss is now eighty-three and not actively practicing, each of them have a genuine altruistic passion and love of mothers and babies, and helping to bring life into the world.
Set in the US, New England area in the winter, Floss is living with Lil, a woman (very cool Gram); however, Floss has not been open and honest with Lil about her past and tends to keep her family life separate from her personal life. I loved Gram’s character especially when we learn of her past in England and what she went through to protect those she loved. I want her for a grandmother.
Grace, a middle-aged wife, married to Robert; she loves her job and likes to maintain control of her life as well as her daughter's life. Due to not having a father in her life growing up, she is desperate to know the identity of her daughter’s baby in order for him to be a part of her life. Grace’s marriage is not so great, sometimes, and found her character witty; loved her humor and rebellious BoHo side.
Neva is single, twenty-nine, working as a professional Certified Nurse-Midwife at the Birthing Center at a hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. She has just dropped the bomb she is seven months pregnant to her mom and Gram. They are shocked. She claims there is no father (she is not naming). She has a gal roommate, and a good-looking and charming pediatrician friend, Patrick (loved him), who spends the night on her sofa occasionally, and has had a one night stand with two other guys (one married).
A very engaging and compelling tale of three generations of women and the secrets they hold which could tear their lives apart. I really enjoyed how the author allows each character to speak and titles the sections with names as very easy to follow. Loved the part where all three woman pulled together for the suspenseful birth, with such vivid settings, making me feel I was in the room.
The most powerful part of the novel is the historical fiction element where we learn the mystery surrounding Gram’s secret. We get bits and pieces of her time in 1954 in Kings Langley, England, when she was a single woman, a midwife riding her bike to help women with two best girlfriends at the boarding house (Evie and Elizabeth). Amazing writing, intensity as we learn the fate of Elizabeth.
Suspenseful flashbacks and pieces of Gram’s story are given during the novel; however, the ultimate reveal comes towards end; her secret to her daughter and granddaughter, and her partner with a heartbreaking and poignant letter. It was so moving, you will cry and smile at the same time.
The storylines are seamless for a dynamic conclusion and courageous story of love, family and the joy of motherhood and its true meaning. The research into deliveries and the medical, was impeccable and quite informative, with well-developed characters. An ideal choice for book clubs or discussions for different viewpoints of the characters and the, what ifs.
Fans of Diane Chamberlain, Kristin Hannah, Emilie Richards, Sarah Jio, and Beth Hoffman will enjoy THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES. Highly recommend to those who love family drama, complex relationships, historical, literary, and women’s fiction, multi-generational and suspense.
This was my first book by Hepworth and look forward to reading more from this talented storyteller.