Laskas, Gretchen Moran. The Midwife’s Tale. 2003. 243p. Bantam Dell.
Ages: High School and up
Elizabeth comes from a long line of West Virginian midwives: her mama is one, as was her grandma, and her great-grandma before that. Elizabeth is training to be one herself until she learns the horrible secret her mama has been keeping from her. Now Elizabeth’s not sure she wants to be a midwife but she is certain that she is going to be Alvin Denniker’s wife and live on Denniker’s hill – a dream she holds on to even when Alvin brings home a wife named Ivy. When Ivy goes into labor and needs a midwife, Elizabeth’s life changes.
I don’t usually like this type of story but this one lured me in from the beginning and kept me until the end. Elizabeth is not a perfect protagonist; she seems real. She wants things that aren’t good for her and can be darn right selfish at times but there’s something about her that made me want to hear her story. Laskas layers on the details of life and midwiving in the early 20th century of West Virginia with such deft that I felt like I was right there with Elizabeth in the cabins helping a 30 some year old woman give birth to her 15th child. Whoah. Sure made me glad for hospitals and birth control. Excellent read.
Personal Note: I met Gretchen at a children’s writer’s conference in Maryland. She sat right down at my table, introduced herself, asked about us about our writing and hung out with us all day. Very friendly fun person. Read her book. It’s good.