In 1746 the battle of Culloden in the Scottish Highlands nearly wiped out the Highland Clans. This is the story of Maggie Duncan. At seven years old she was the sole survivor when her village was destroyed by the English army because the villagers had aided the Highlanders. She is able to escape and then helps a mortally wounded soldier find his way home. Luckily for Maggie the soldier’s wife is a midwife and she adopts Maggie, raises and educates her while passing along her healing skills.
When she is twenty-one Maggie’s foster mother dies and with her goes Maggie’s protection from the neighbors. They look on her as cursed since she survived when everyone else in her village perished in the attack. They are cruel and narrow minded, so she is unable to make a living for herself since the locals will not accept her as a healer. Eventually she decides to start fresh in America and sells herself as an indentured servant in order to obtain passage on a ship.
Upon arrival in Virginia, the ship’s captain sells at auction the four year bonds for each passenger he has brought over. Maggie narrowly avoids being bought by an arrogant, drunken nobleman who has made the passage on the same boat. She is bought by a frontiersman, Seth, who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife and children. He desperately needs help as his wife is ill and pregnant and physically unable to cope with frontier life. For Seth, Maggie is the answer to a prayer.
Maggie fits in well with Seth’s family and the other settlers in that area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is smart and skilled and she quickly starts to learn the medical uses of the local plants. But just when everything seems to be going well, disaster strikes and she must use all of her wits to survive.
This is a terrific, enthralling story of frontier life in colonial Virginia. The characters were compelling (or repulsive, as the case may be) and the settings were wonderfully described. I loved the balanced depiction of the Native Americans of the time, showing them from their own point of view as well as an outsider’s. I also loved that the author peppered the text with Scottish words. They were easily defined by the context but I had a great time looking up their meanings (ie: sclim=climb, swither=to be uncertain or hesitate). A really well done historical novel. I’m looking forward to future books by this author!
Midwife of the Blue Ridge is published by Berkley, ISBN 9780425221686