Book Review: Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein

Death of a Rainmaker
A Dust Bowl Mystery #1
Laurie Loewenstein
Kaylie Jones Books/Akashic Books, October 2018
ISBN: 978-1-61775-679-5
Hardcover

I’ll start out by saying this is a book that’s already been added to my “Best Books Read in 2019” list.

Death of a Rainmaker features dust storms so brilliantly written they’ll have you choking from the dirt and grit filling your eyes, your mouth, your lungs. Historical fact: Did you know Dust Pneumonia was/is a real malady? It killed many a child during the dust bowl years. You’ll also learn about the everyday life of the inhabitants of this small and steadily shrinking Oklahoma town. They’re people you’ll get to know as if they’re your own neighbors.

Be prepared to feel the despair of the people, families, especially the rural families, who tried everything they knew to make a living during this heartbreaking time, but who could only watch their wells dry up and their livestock die. As they watched their children die. And their hopes and dreams die, buried in dust that piled in drifts around the buildings and got in through every little crack in the boards of their dried-out houses.

So, when a stranger claiming to be a rainmaker shows up vowing to bring moisture to the parched earth, why is he murdered outside a movie house run by a blind man, in the middle of a huge duststorm?

Was it because he failed to bring rain? Was it because of a fight he got into with a young CCC worker when they’d both had too much to drink? Or was it because he eyed another man’s wife?

These are all questions Sheriff Temple Jennings is going to need to answer. Quickly, because the election is coming up and for the first time in years he has a man running against him for the job. Etha, his wife, has her own ideas about the murder, and they don’t coincide with her husband’s.

So much goes on in this novel. It’s a history of those years when poverty stalked a large portion of the population, especially in the rural areas of Oklahoma and thereabouts. It’s a grouping of character studies. It’s a mystery. And it’s wonderful.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, March 2019.
Author of Five Days, Five Dead, Hereafter and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

The Reluctant MidwifeThe Reluctant Midwife
A Hope River Novel #2
Patricia Harman
William Morrow Paperbacks, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-06-235824-0
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nurse Becky Myers is a reluctant midwife. She’s far more comfortable with tending the sick than helping women deliver their babies. For these mothers-to-be, she relies on an experienced midwife, her dear friend Patience Murphy. But the Great Depression has hit West Virginia hard. Men are out of work; women struggle to feed hungry children. And sometimes Becky is called upon to bring new life into the world.

Though she is happy to be back in Hope River, time and experience have tempered Becky’s cheerfulness— as tragedy has destroyed the vibrant spirit of her former employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, who has accompanied her. Patience too has changed. Married and expecting a baby herself, she is relying on Becky to keep the mothers of Hope River safe.

Becoming a midwife and ushering new life into the world is not Becky’s only challenge. Her skills and courage will be tested when a calamitous forest fire blazes through a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. And she must find a way to bring Isaac’s spirit back to life and rediscover the hope they both need to go on.

Much has been written and studied about the Great Depression and its devastating effects and West Virginia was certainly one of the states hit hardest. Already lagging behind other states economically, the Depression made things much worse and true poverty became commonplace. Such is the setting for the tale of some wonderful and resilient people told in The Reluctant Midwife.

Technically speaking, this is the second book in a series but it’s really more of a companion novel to the first. The main character from The Midwife of Hope River, Patience Murphy, is present in the second book but the focus is on a different character, Becky Myers. I enjoyed Patience in this story (not having read the first book yet) but Becky is the one who really caught my attention.

Becky is a nurse but is every bit as terrified as any layman would be at the thought of attending childbirth and it’s this facet of her personality that tells us who Becky is, the fortitude and compassion that imbue her personality. Oddly enough, I was reminded of the James Herriot books in the type of person Becky is, doing what needs to be done even when she really doesn’t want to, and also in the style of the story, with vignettes of medical scenarios forming the heart of the tale.

Becky is a woman I’d love to know in reality even while I’d be a little intimidated by her essential goodness. She takes on the burden of caring for her nearly catatonic employer, Dr. Isaac Blum, and does so just because that’s the right thing to do. Her compassion towards him in the face of impending starvation is remarkable and, yet, it fits the mold of those people who live in Appalachia and other economically stressed areas. They are people who recognize that community and caring for one’s neighbors is how they rise above their conditions.

Becky, like them, is full of heart and resilience and I love her story. I’ll be picking up the first book while wiondering where Ms. Harman will take us next.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2015.

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About the Author

Patricia HarmanPatricia Harman, CNM, got her start as a lay midwife on rural communes and went on to become a nurse-midwife on the faculty of Ohio State University, Case Western Reserve University, and West Virginia University. She lives near Morgantown, West Virginia; has three sons; and is the author of two acclaimed memoirs.

Find out more about Patricia at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, March 3rd: West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, March 4th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 5th: Broken Teepee

Friday, March 6th: Kritter Ramblings

Monday, March 9th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 10th: A Novel Review

Thursday, March 12th: Life Between Reads

Monday, March 16th: Unshelfish

Tuesday, March 17th: A Patchwork of Books

Wednesday, March 18th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, March 19th: FictionZeal

Friday, March 20th: A Chick Who Reads

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