Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"The Runaway Midwife"

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.

Harman applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Runaway Midwife, and reported the following:
When asked to take this test with my new book, The Runaway Midwife, I was surprised that page 69 perfectly represents the arc of the story.
For six days it rains and the waves crash up on the break-wall dragging the chunks of ice in and then out. On the fourth day, in the afternoon, the clouds, like battleships, pass over the horizon. Spring is coming. I can feel it, but there’s no joy in my heart.

I’ve been here almost four weeks and there’s a change in the light and the sky is bright blue, but I’ve slipped into the gray waters and I’m floating back and forth with the ice. Clara Perry is dead but Sara Livingston of Seagull Island has not quite been born.

Besides leaving my home, my job, my patients and my daughter, I think I know why I’m in the doldrums. I haven’t delivered a baby in over five weeks and I hadn’t realized how much being a midwife carried me on wings.
Clara Perry, nurse-midwife, is on the run, hiding on a remote island in Canada. She’s taken a new identity, but is afraid to move around because she’s there as an illegal immigrant, a thief and a fugitive wanted in the US for manslaughter following the death of a patient at a home birth. (This is a woman her ex-husband calls a Girl Scout because she’d never do anything against the law or even unseemly.)

I like the passage above because it shows the protagonist floating back and forth with the broken ice in the gray waves of Lake Erie, as depressed as she has ever been, and then things begin to change as spring comes and she realizes that’s it’s not her new life that’s getting her down, but the fact that she’s missing the most important part of her old one.
Birth is a miracle, not just for the patient and her family, but for me. When I was with a woman in labor, I wasn’t thinking about what to have for dinner or whom Richard was screwing. My full attention was on the patient and there was peace in that. It’s like meditation and there’s only one thing that matters, getting the mother and the baby safely through the passage with love and grace. I miss it.
I think if I were the reader, I would read on. By this point, I’ve followed the protagonist through a harrowing journey in a snowstorm from West Virginia to Ohio. We’ve crossed the thawing ice of Lake Erie on a snowmobile and stumbled through deep snow, in the middle of the night, to an isolated cottage. What will happen next? Will Clara, be forced to take more risks, just to survive?
Visit Patricia Harman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue