Ariel Lawhon’s The Frozen River is the latest pick for the Good Morning America book club.
Lawhon’s novel, published Tuesday by Doubleday, tells the story of Martha Ballard, a real-life midwife who investigated the murder of a man found dead in Maine’s Kennebec River in 1789. The novel draws from Ballard’s diary, which was also the subject of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1990 book, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812.
On Good Morning America, Eva Pilgrim talked with Lawhon about her novel, noting that many people have never heard of Ballard.
“Often, history is written by men, and if you read Martha Ballard’s diary, it is the chronicle of women’s work [and] women’s interior lives, and it was considered uninteresting,” Lawhon said.
Lawhon said she happened upon Ballard’s story in a doctor’s office.
“I read all the magazines in the office, and there was nothing left except this small devotional book,” she said. “It talked about Martha Ballard, a midwife who had delivered over 1,000 babies in the course of her career and never lost a mother. And all of the little hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I thought, That would make a great novel.”
Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.