Jodi Daynard takes readers back to the early days of The Revolutionary War in The Midwife’s Revolt. It’s historical fiction in the purest sense, with a focus on a singular time and place. And Daynard adds the challenges of being a woman alone in eighteenth century Boston. Our heroine is Mrs. Lizzie Boylston, beloved wife of a patriot who falls in an early battle, leaving her widowed and fending for herself. But this is a woman with pluck and, thankfully, some midwifery and herbalist skills.
The Boylston family is well-connected, and Lizzie’s circle of friends and extended family includes luminaries of the time. For example, her neighbors John and Abigail Adams, with whom Lizzie becomes fast friends. Although Lizzie runs a farm, she’s quite the blue blood. And that makes her decisions even more intriguing to read about.
This is a time when neighbors and friends didn’t know who to trust. Was that newly arrived man a Patriot or a Loyalist? And what kind of information did servants overhear and with whom did they share it? The Revolution was a tenuous movement, and Lizzie’s nearest and dearest are in the thick of it all.
This is an enjoyable story with a strong protagonist and interesting supporting characters. It was tough to be a woman in those times, and Daynard keeps it real. I spent plenty of time with my eyes rolled back because of … harrumph … the patriarchy. But Lizzie pushes back against expectations however she can, which made me love her.
The Midwife’s Revolt is straight historical fiction, with no fantastical elements. It just focuses on characters in another part of time. Lizzie gets herself in a bit of trouble—of course she does. And there’s a mystery to unravel related to the two sides of the conflict. All the elements blend neatly for an engaging story.
At the end of the audiobook, Daynard describes her research practices. She gathered and charted historical details on a calendar before choosing her central character. This meticulous research shows in the specifics of the story. However, I confess I’m not a scholar of this period. Nevertheless, it felt real to me.
Daynard also introduces a smaller sub plot with Lizzie’s imperious sister-in-law that intrigued me. In it, we learn that things aren’t always what they seem with these upper crust women. Turns out the author pursued this story line in another book, so I may pick that up and dive deeper into it.
I recommend this if you’re feeling patriotic about the early days of the United States. Or if you like a strong female protagonist who doesn’t follow typical paths.