Three generations of midwives—daughter, mother and grandmother—harbor the sort of secrets that rearrange the idea of family.
Although Neva dines frequently at her grandmother Floss’ cottage, both Floss and Neva’s mother, Grace, are shocked to discover Neva is seven months pregnant when a spilled pitcher of water reveals her belly. Distress increases when Neva tells them the baby has no father. Floss knows Neva will eventually divulge the truth, but Grace, needy and intrusive, spends much of the novel spying and prodding. There are a few father options: Neva works in a Providence, Rhode Island, birthing center attended by womanizing pediatrician Patrick and a kind (but very married) obstetrician, Sean. There was even a one-night stand with the boring, now engaged, Mark. None are ideal candidates for fatherhood, but Grace can’t bear the thought that Neva’s baby will grow up fatherless, as she did. And about that—Floss has some secrets of her own. Now living as a lesbian with her partner, Lil, Floss has always told Grace that they left their native England to start anew shortly after Grace’s father died. This bears little resemblance to the truth, which nicely unfolds parallel to Neva’s story. Meanwhile, Grace, who has a hearty disdain for hospitals and doctors, is being unfairly investigated for negligence, straining her already fragile marriage. Hepworth makes some interesting, though not always successful, choices in her narratives (chapters alternate among Neva, Grace and Floss), painting an irksome portrait of Grace and a rather opaque picture of Neva, whose secret is kept from the reader until the finale.
Fans of Call the Midwife will enjoy the vignettes of childbirth and the multigenerational female saga.