About the book: (from the publisher) Midwife Clara Perry is accustomed to comforting her pregnant patients…calming fathers-to-be as they anxiously await the birth of their children…ensuring the babies she delivers come safely into the world.
But when Clara’s life takes a nosedive, she realizes she hasn’t been tending to her own needs and does something drastic: she runs away and starts over again in a place where no one knows her or the mess she’s left behind in West Virginia. Heading to Sea Gull Island—a tiny, remote Canadian island—Clara is ready for anything. Well, almost. She left her passport back home, and the only way she can enter Canada is by hitching a ride on a snowmobile and illegally crossing the border.
Deciding to reinvent herself, Clara takes a new identity—Sara Livingston, a writer seeking solitude. But there’s no avoiding the outside world. The residents are friendly, and draw “Sara” into their lives and confidences. She volunteers at the local medical clinic, using her midwifery skills, and forms a tentative relationship with a local police officer.
But what will happen if she lets down her guard and reveals the real reason why she left her old life? One lesson soon becomes clear: no matter how far you run, you can never really hide from your past.
About the author: Patricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculties of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She is the author of two acclaimed memoirs and the bestselling novel The Midwife of Hope River. She has three sons and lives near Morgantown, West Virginia. Find her online at patriciaharman.com.
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Women’s Fiction
[Tweet “A new contemporary midwife tale from the pen of bestselling novelist Patricia Harman”]
My take: Drawn by its intriguing premise, I was eager to give this novel a try, especially since I enjoy discovering new-to-me authors and, often, stories about contemporary midwives and the reinvention of self. The first pages showed much promise. In the prologue, I felt an immediate kinship with the as-yet-unnamed woman who “felt too much.” Is there a woman who can’t relate to that?
From the hook prologue flowed several gripping chapters as Clara’s life crumbled around her and she scrambled to survive. I even liked some of the author’s unconventional stylistic devices: the heavy-handed use of exclamation points and parenthetical comments lent the narrative voice a not-inappropriate quirkiness; and the short, titled chapters kept the pace lively even throughout the mellow middle section. A few oddly italicized snippets of narrative, however — which I think were meant to be internal dialogue but weren’t — were a bit distracting.
The stranger part was the evolution of the story. What began so powerfully with such strong elements of conflict and suspense soon evolved into a much more relaxed and almost disconnected middle. It went on for so long that I began to wonder when the author was going to return us to the real problem, which was how Clara would redeem the situation she’d thrown herself into by running away. From that point, I began finding reasons to dislike the way things were heading: increasingly, Clara-now-Sara’s choices unsettled me; her profound estrangement from her daughter was never satisfactorily explained (and frankly seemed out of character for this generally compassionate woman); and the general socio/religious slant began to feel a bit too…well, slanted.
The plot did eventually resolve, but with none of the same bang it started with, and certainly not satisfyingly: Clara/Sara’s problems simply became non-issues without her having to lift a finger. Despite its early promise, The Runaway Midwife unfortunately turned out to be less than a favorite.
Thanks to William Morrow for providing me this book free of charge. All opinions are mine.
(Just so you know: Includes some profanity, infidelity, and mostly off-screen sex.)
After words: What new-to-you author have you read lately?