Review The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon


The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon
Published: December 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery
Pages: 420
Available: ebook, paperback, audio, hardcover
Sex: contains descriptions of rape, a central point of the story
Violence: murder, mild violence

The Short Story: A wonderful story with an engaging mystery

A man is found in the frozen river and midwife Martha Ballard is asked to determine the cause of death. She believes he was murdered but the newly arrived doctor disagrees. This death is one of the central plotlines in this fabulous story. The second major plotline is the rape of the town ministers wife who accuses the local judge and the dead man pulled from the river. But this book is so much more than the sum of its parts. It's the story of Martha Ballard, a midwife and diarist. Based on her real diaries, author Lawhon writes an engaging novel of life in the late 18th century in a romote town in Maine. 

From a historical perspective, the book is full of period details of life in the years after the American Revolution. Some readers might be surprised by the seeminly inefficient judicial system, where rape can be dismissed for 'lack of witnesses'. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Martha's work as a midwife and the absolute terror that was childbirth at that time. 

The mystery of the dead man was really intriguing as Martha's family is slowly drawn into the thick of it. Who killed him and why? I couldn't wait to find out. 

The relationship of Martha and her husband is heartwarming as is their's with their children. The highs and lows of marriage and family are lovingly portrayed as is the heartache.

I would recommend this book to readers of historical fiction, women's fiction, historical mysteries, and anyone who just loves a great book!

My favorite read of the year so far!


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