Patricia Harman's Once a Midwife brings the reader to the homefront during WWI. Pearl Harbor has been bombed, Hitler is on his terrible reign in Germany while war looms through Europe. Along the homefront in Hope River, the residents supporting the wartime effort find themselves on the divide among each other when it comes out that one of their beloved residents, Daniel Hester, is a conscientious objector and is prosecuted for his beliefs. There is more behind why he isn't but in the eyes of others, he's labeled a draft dodger and doesn't love his country. His wife, Patience, no matter how much she is loved, finds herself caught in the middle of trying to find hope to hold onto to her life, family and dealing with the consequences of their divided beliefs.
This is my first read from Patricia Harman. There is more to the story than what I just mentioned but that covers much of the angst within the book. From what I've read in other books, this is the first time I've come across the subject of objectors during this war period. We usually hear about the propaganda, the rationing, the collection of raw goods for manufacturing war products and the strong swifting patriotic spirit. This was an interesting perspective especially coming from a character who was a good family man, well respected and never had issues. Not that you have to be a bad person but it softens the negative perspective that being opposed meant you hate your country. Diving into the why's of not wanting to participate in the draft as a result of his previous time served gives the reader into a different insight. You were automatically labeled unpatriotic buy no one talks about the effects of going to war and how it affects your life. I know it's easier to say now since the draft isn't prevalent in our lives but when you hear the reasoning of why not, it presents a dilemma. You sympathize but at the same time, his family's hardship could've been avoided had he complied with the expectations at the time.
The heart of the book was the midwife, Patience. I loved everything she represented in the book. Here is a woman who embodies strength and is trusted by so many women not only being a midwife but as a wife and mother. Her beliefs were strong and progressive for her time, the role she played in her community and her life was an important one. The challenges she faced with the backlash of her husband's belief along with the internal conflict of her opposition to his beliefs, loving him and hating him for what they had to endure as a result of his "lack of patriotism" gives readers a nice story that they will have much to talk about. The supporting cast of her friends brings a wholeness to their lives that only enhance the novel. In particular, her beautiful friendship with Bitsy was one of my favorites. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Beyond their situation, you experience beautiful friendships, loss, love and just the spirit of what it means to be an American. This is a nice one that you will just get swept away in. I'd recommend checking this one out.