The Last Midwife
by Sandra Dallas
St. Martins Press, 2015
Reviewed by Barbara
Free and Jenna Wiley
Sandra Dallas has written
many novels, some of them on best seller lists. This one is not as humorous as a previous one both
reviewers read, but it has its moments. It is set in Leadville, Colorado, in the 1880s. The main
character, Gracy, is a midwife at a time when doctors were first beginning to be interested in
delivering babies, but most had no real training in obstetrics and some were mostly interested
in the money. There was, therefore, motivation for discrediting traditional midwives.
Gracy is a traditional, very skilled, woman, who was raised by Nabbie,
a single woman and midwife who had delivered her, because Gracys mother could not care for her,
having nine young children already. She delivered babies from the age of ten, having been trained by
Nabbie, who believed Gracy had a real gift for healing.
The book primarily focuses on Gracy, now an older woman, being accused
of murder after a newborn she had attended a few days after his birth died. She had not delivered
this baby, whose grandfather had a huge resentment against Gracys husband. The story is told
in vignettes and Gracys memories, so that only gradually does the reader know more about Gracy,
her husband, their son, and other relationships, until at the very end, when the rest of the
story comes out and adoption connections and step-parent connections are revealed.
This is a very enjoyable took, the kind one stays up way too late
reading, because you cant wait to see what happens next. It is fiction and couldnt be
described as fun, unlike another of the authors books, Chili Queen, but
it is a pleasure to read, probably historically pretty accurate, and gives the reader some insights
into how people lived and dealt with lifes issues in the 1880s, when many of our grandparents
and great grandparents were living, as well as the informal foster and adoption practices of that
time, when there were no agencies or foster systems in pioneer settings in the West.
Although the main character is a woman, this book would be enjoyable
reading for both men and women of any age.
Excerpted from the January 2016
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2016 Operation Identity