GMA BOOK CLUB PICK • AN NPR BOOK OF THE YEAR • From the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia and Code Name Hélène comes a gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history.
"Fans of Outlander’s Claire Fraser will enjoy Lawhon’s Martha, who is brave and outspoken when it comes to protecting the innocent. . . impressive."—The Washington Post
"Once again, Lawhon works storytelling magic with a real-life heroine." —People Magazine
Maine, 1789: When the Kennebec River freezes, entombing a man in the ice, Martha Ballard is summoned to examine the body and determine cause of death. As a midwife and healer, she is privy to much of what goes on behind closed doors in Hallowell. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha documented the details of an alleged rape committed by two of the town’s most respected gentlemen—one of whom has now been found dead in the ice. But when a local physician undermines her conclusion, declaring the death to be an accident, Martha is forced to investigate the shocking murder on her own.
Over the course of one winter, as the trial nears, and whispers and prejudices mount, Martha doggedly pursues the truth. Her diary soon lands at the center of the scandal, implicating those she loves, and compelling Martha to decide where her own loyalties lie.
Clever, layered, and subversive, Ariel Lawhon’s newest offering introduces an unsung heroine who refused to accept anything less than justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard. The Frozen River is a thrilling, tense, and tender story about a remarkable woman who left an unparalleled legacy yet remains nearly forgotten to this day.
Lawhon (Code Name Hélène) draws from the diary of an 18th-century midwife for the stirring story of one woman's quest for justice. In 1789 Maine, 54-year-old midwife Martha Ballard is asked to help determine the cause of death for Joshua Burgess, an accused rapist whose body was found frozen in the river. Martha is convinced that Burgess was beaten and hanged before he was thrown into the water. Several months earlier, she treated a woman named Rebecca Foster for injuries sustained from rape, and Rebecca told her the assailants were Burgess and Joseph North, a judge. After a court determines there's not enough evidence against North for a rape charge, despite Martha's testimony about Rebecca's injuries, a trial is arranged on different charges, but North disappears. Martha attempts to prove Burgess was murdered, hoping to bring scrutiny to North as a suspect in the killing, whose motive may have been to keep Burgess from testifying against him about the rape. Lawhon combines modern prose with the immediacy of her source material, making for an accessible and textured narrative. This accomplished historical powerfully speaks to centuries-old inequities that remain in the present day.
An incredible read and characters!
You won’t soon forget midwife Martha Ballard. Thank you for telling her story
This was a remarkably enjoyable book. The author created a vivid picture of life in early America, especially for women.
Entertaining from start to finish.
I loved the time frame of this book. The characters were well developed, and the way their lives interacted was both believable and encouraging I found myself engaged with each and every one of them. Great book!