Graduate student Beth Winslow was sure she was ready to navigate the challenges of becoming a surrogate. But when early tests indicate possible abnormalities with the baby, Beth is unprepared for the parents’ decision to end the pregnancy — and for the fierce love she feels for this unborn child. Desperate, she flees the city and seeks refuge at Hopen Haus, a home for unwed mothers deep in a Tennessee Mennonite community where she assumes a different name and identity.
As head midwife of Hopen Haus, Rhoda Mummau delivers babies with a confident though stoic ease. Except in rare moments, not even those who work alongside her would guess that each newborn cry, each starry-eyed glance from mother to child, nearly renders a fault through Rhoda’s heart, reminding her of a past she has carefully concealed.
I had a difficult time getting into this book. There are a lot of characters to get to know right off the bat and the shifting of past to present in the midst of all the different characters threw me for a little bit. There was actually a point that I considered giving up on the book, something that I almost never do. However, I kept reading and ended up being really glad that I didn’t give up.
This is one of those rare books where the author doesn’t shy away from having really horrible things happen to the main character. Granted, Beth/Rhoda makes some really poor choices, but she carries many scars and abandonment issues. While Beth’s story is painful to read at times, there are people right now struggling with the same issues that Beth faced. In fact, readers can see a wide spectrum of very human pain and suffering in the characters of this book that will probably strike a chord in them. Personally, I enjoy reading books like this, where the characters experience real life pain and consequences of their decisions.
Aside from the emotional pain and turmoil in this book, there are very powerful messages. Forgiveness, letting go of the past, redemption, and the realization that every human relationship will fail us at some point, are all themes Petersheim addresses in her book. Beth learns that only God can provide her with what she needs. This is a lesson everyone needs to be reminded of as we live our lives.
The final third of this book is completely riveting. All of the threads of the story are neatly tied up and the ending is one I am still mulling over. Although this is only Petersheim’s second novel, her storytelling skills are remarkable. She does an incredible job weaving all the characters together. I think the pacing of the book is perfect. There is no sense of urgency in wrapping it up at the end, which seems to happen a lot. The ending happens very naturally, without feeling rushed. I think it is an example of excellent story-crafting.
For me, this ended up being a very rare book. It is one that I almost put down, but has ended up being one that I will re-read, which is something else I usually don’t do. If you are looking for a book that will make you cry, this is it. This is a great book for a weekend that you have time to relax and spend in front of the fire. I think it will stay with you, as it has with me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Net Gallery in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.