3 July 2015

Review: A Midwife's Tale by Delia Parr

Fails to Deliver

Amazon Description

Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives who have served the families of Trinity, Pennsylvania, for generations. A widow with two grown children, she's hopeful that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, but when Victoria runs off, Martha's world is shattered.

Worse, a new doctor has arrived in town, threatening her job, and she can't remember a time when her faith has been tested more. Still determined to do the work she knows God intended for her, Martha is unprepared for all that waits ahead. Whether it's trying to stop a town scandal, mending broken relationships, or feeling the first whispers of an unexpected romance, she faces every trial and every opportunity with hope and faith.

My Review

I didn’t realise when I selected this book to review, but it’s actually a reprint of A Place Called Trinity, published by St Martins Press in 2002 to mediocre Amazon reviews (including a four-star review from Harriet Klausner, who reviews an average of six five-star books a day across a range of genres. I usually discount Harriet’s reviews, but when she—or her minions—give less than five stars, I wonder what she/they disliked so much).

I don’t know why Bethany House decided to publish a medicore reprint when there are a lot of better first-time novelists begging for a chance to be published through Bethany House or one of the other major CBA publishers. Contractual reasons? It doesn’t seem like it’s undergone any changes since the original version—the writing, frankly, isn’t up to the standard I expect from Bethany House, and I sincerely hope the NetGalley ebook wasn’t the final edited and proofread version (tattoo and tatoo in the same sentence? Please.)

The beginning was slow, as it covered sixty years of medical history in the town of Trinity, and it never got faster. A lot of the story was told in the past rather than being shown in the present—Parr has midwife Martha Cade thinking about a conversation she’s just had rather than showing us the scene in which the conversation occurred. This felt old-fashioned and boring. Yes, I know the book is set in 1830, but it doesn’t need to feel as if it were written in 1830 as well.

The most distracting thing in The Midwife's Tale was the dialogue tags. It seems plain old “said” is too difficult. Instead, the characters gushed, suggested, murmured, whispered, simply said, ventured, argued, offered, spat … and that’s just one conversation. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the tags fit the characters, but gushed sounds like a modern teenage girl—a cheerleader, perhaps—not a staid middle-aged housekeeper or a widowed midwife in 1830. Modern Christian writing has been criticised for obeying the "rules" to the point where individual voice is removed from the writing. This novel is a good argument for the rules.

There were flashes of brilliance in the writing, like “a skein of good intentions that tangled her hopes with disappointment”. But these were outweighed by the ever-present explanatory dialogue tags and excessive telling, which made it hard to see the story. I know there are people who enjoy this kind of writing and storytelling, but I’m not one of them.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

No comments:

Post a Comment