A baby’s first cry was the sound of angels’ songs. No matter how long and difficult the labor, no matter how the mother moaned from the pain and the tearing, praying and cursing, Gracy knew joy at the sight of the baby’s body pushing into the world, felt exhilaration as she caught the tiny living creature and held the soft, wet flesh in her hands a moment longer than was necessary. And she passed that sense of wonder on to the mother, exclaiming over the fingers and toes as tiny as birds’ claws, the eyelashes thin as a thread, the button of a nose.
It was not the money or the gold dust or the barter items that sent Gracy over icy trails, that drew her out of sleep-warm quilts at midnight to face cold and howling blizzards. She went where she was called because she knew a woman needed her, because new life waited for her…
The Last Midwife is a historical mystery novel set in gold rush country, a Colorado mining town in the 19th century. Gracy Brookens is the last midwife in the community, aging and creaky, but taking long treks into deep country to continue to serve women, despite the presence of a new, modern doctor in town. Unfortunately, a baby is murdered and Gracy is accused of the crime. Mixed with birth stories, personal trauma and the witnessing of intense family suffering, the baby’s murder case comes to trial and Gracy must face the chance of imprisonment as well as rejection and betrayal from some of the women she has loyally served. The mystery of who really killed the baby runs through the book along with several other intertwined subplots that are like mini-mysteries of their own.
While the twist ending left me a little disappointed, The Last Midwife was a realistic, interesting, engaging, suspenseful, well-developed, and creative read that doulas, midwives, and childbirth educators will particularly enjoy.