Monday, June 3, 2024

BOOK REVIEW: The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon

I heard good things about The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon, and bumped it to the top of my TBR pile. This is a historical mystery that definitely lives up to its hype.

The novel is inspired by the story of Martha Ballard, a late-eighteenth century midwife in Maine, who kept a daily journal of her work. I read about this fascinating woman decades ago in the award winning biography A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, based on her diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. That nonfiction account puts Martha’s life in the context of the time. I still recommend it all these years later.

In this novel, Lawhon breathes new life into the story by focusing on diary entries recording the rape of one of the townswomen, Rebecca Foster. She named the local judge as one of the rapists. Although The Frozen River is fictional, truthful (painfully true) elements seep through. (Be sure to read the author’s note at the end!)

I don’t want to give away the plot(s). So I’ll just say the writing is superb. The questions that are raised throughout, the desire to see justice done, and the fear that it won’t be, makes this a book that is difficult to put down. The love story between Martha and her husband Ephraim gives the book a soothing, hopeful core while corruption, male privilege, rape, and murder swirl around them. This novel is highly recommended as a must-read for fans of historical fiction.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard lots of good things about this author too.

    Thanks for sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.