By: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 26, 2015
In her latest novel, The Last Midwife, Sandra Dallas steps the reader through a heart-felt journey of the life and times of larger than life character Gracy Brookens.
Set in the splendor of the Rocky Mountain Tenmile Range, Gracy Brookens is introduced to her audience. She is a midwife in 1880’s Colorado and the mountain folk trust her with the job of delivering their next generation into the world. It is a time when burly men spend months in the wilderness on a mission to strike the motherlode vein while their women and children remain behind at the homestead to fend for the day-to-day life of survival. Gracy loves her life. She loves women and the babies she brings into the world. She relishes the solitude of her buggy ride as she guides her horse Buddy across the terrain; seizing yet another opportunity to drink in the nature that surrounds her. “...the glory of the sky told Gracy there was a Holy Spirit in that land of greed and struggle, particularly on a morning when she had just birthed a baby in Mayflower Gulch. Not that she needed convincing. The birth of a baby was proof enough. Every baby, she believed, was a miracle...”
Gracy had her share of sorrows to counterbalance the joys. She thinks about her sweet baby girl and how she passed far too young. She and her husband Daniel embraced the joy years later when their son Jeff entered their lives. They watched him grow into a fine young man and felt the heaviness in their hearts the day he decided to leave. Jeff had things to sort out and his journey would take him far away from his home and parents. Gracy had faith he would return some day.
Gracy was respected by both women and men—most of the community, that is to say. When she returns home from the recent birthing, Gracy is horrified to learn Jonas Halleck, the town’s wealthiest and most diabolical citizen, accuses her of murdering his newborn son. For the first time in her life, Gracy is faced with the notion that perhaps the good Lord had another destiny in mind for her.
I am overjoyed to have the opportunity to read and review a body of work when it is abundantly clear from the onset it is a diamond in the rough. Such is the case with Sandra Dallas and her latest novel, The Last Midwife. It is a solid example of a writer who knows how to guide her pen and deliver a story to near perfection. I lived in the glorious mountains of Colorado for many years—not too far from the majestic Tenmile Range where the story is set. I drove that canyon stretch of I-70 many a’ time and have to say every time I did so, I too believed I was traveling through one of God’s greatest creations. Ms. Dallas captures the essence of its beauty through eloquent prose and distinct imagery to such an extent, it resurrected fond memories and managed to take me back to that time. She opens the story with: ‘Dawn broke across the Tenmile Range in fiery slashes of red—flaming streaks the color of blood. Sunrise was always violent in the high country...” Superb! Dallas’ descriptive scenery is beautifully balanced with believable dialogue exchanges that are relevant to the period of time. Her precise creation of main character, Gracy Brookens, is well thought out—a woman full of salt, conviction and purpose through the words she speaks. Dallas purposefully shows the reader the hardships a woman endured in a time when their purpose wasn’t much more than to bear children. Her fluid style portrays she has a clear vision of her audience throughout. The cadence is a satisfying journey of ebb and flow which is the epitome of what a book, in my opinion, must do. Ms. Dallas deserves praise for accomplishing a beautiful journey that is set in, unquestionably, one of the most captivating areas of our country. Well done Ms. Dallas, I look forward to your next writing endeavor.
Quill says: The Last Midwife is a heart-felt story of a woman of monumental strength in a time when it truly was a ‘man’s world.’