Three women. Three generations of midwives. One secret that threatens to tear them apart.
Neva has managed to keep her pregnancy secret for all of six months, but when her mother, Grace, and grandmother, Floss, discover her situation quite by accident it seems it's finally time to spill. As a midwife in a family of midwives, and an employee at a birthing center, it's not like she could keep it secret forever. One thing Neva won't reveal, though, is the identity of the father.
Grace grew up without a dad and knows all too well the sense of loss and the damage it can do to a child. As she tries to push Neva to involve the father in some way, Floss is forced to confront a secret of her own. And this one has been festering inside of her long enough to do real damage.
The Secrets of Midwives, Hepworth's US debut, is lighter fare than my last few reads. It's 100% women's fiction in the truest sense - a story about three generations of women from the same family, all of them dedicated to a noble practice that's steeped in women's history. Interestingly, Hepworth manages to also pit the different family members against one another in terms of viewpoints on hospitals and home births without becoming overly political. (It's a subtle aspect of the story, to be honest, at least in comparison to the rest of the plot, but I found it to be particularly timely all things considered.)
Hepworth does a fabulous job establishing each character's personality and voice as the story alternates between the three narrators. Each of them has their faults, but I found something to love in each of them as well. Floss's story, though, is the only one I felt was really worthy of any sense of urgency. Neva has her life together. She's prepared to be a mother, she has a support system, and her situation never feels as serious as I think it's meant to. Grace's story also felt the same, but perhaps this was because Robert, her husband, isn't very well developed as a whole and much of her own conflict lies in part with him.
Floss, though, is hiding something pretty big and it's not hard for the reader to figure it out. Her story unfolds through flashbacks, bringing the reader back to England in the 1950s, and it was this part of the tale that I really loved. I have to admit that I pictured her story through a lens no doubt influenced by Call the Midwife! (Note that cover art.)
As a whole, The Secrets of Midwives is heartwarming and fun, a one-sitting read perfect for readers looking for a bit of a deep subject in a lighter framework.
The Secrets of Midwives is out now in hardcover and on audio, read by Alison Larkin. Thanks to the publisher, I have a sample of that available here for you: