This is not a fast-paced book, and that’s a good thing. It’s a slow, gentle journey into the heart of 1940s Appalachia and a fascinating glimpse into an unfamiliar part of post-WWII history. And we have lots of lovely characters to spend time with along the way. Gabhart’s deft hand with dialect made this even more of a fun read. It’s the perfect example of portraying mountain speech without making readers trip over oodles of phonetic spelling.
Faith is woven naturally into the characters’ lives and conversations, which I always love. I also really enjoyed the slow-burn romance—always my favorite kind to read about, and especially when there are other friendships and family relationships happening around that romance. This book avoided a lot of unnecessary drama that some authors would have gone to town with.
Francine was the perfect heroine for this kind of story. She was capable and independent, as her job demanded, but she was never rude or rebellious or out to prove anything. (I’m really tired of “strong” heroines who are actually rather childish.) Even in her strained relationship with her mother, she didn’t lash out. I appreciated Ben too, and the bits of teasing interplay between him and Francine. He wasn’t perfect, and neither was Francine, but they acknowledged their mistakes and tried to make things right. Woody was a fun character who made me think of the “kid brother” characters Grace Livingston Hill often included in her books—loyal and outgoing and often up to a bit of mischief—and Granny Em was the perfect touch to round out a full supporting cast.
The writing style didn’t always follow the adage to “show, don’t tell”—when Ben broke his arm, I had to re-read it a few times to make sure something serious had actually happened, because it was told so matter-of-factly. To be honest, I thought the shooting storyline was going to have a bigger resolution, but maybe that wouldn’t have fit the story. Also not a fan of the advice to “follow your heart.” It felt too modern for the setting, and the Bible doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about following your heart unless your heart is following God’s.
Those are pretty small quibbles, though. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, both for the interesting history and for the engaging characters and gentle romance. It felt a lot like real life, even though I’ve never been a frontier nurse-midwife dealing with these specific problems and people. I definitely recommend it for readers of Christian historical fiction and Christian historical romance.