64. Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley. An OK story, although how it won two awards is beyond me. Didn't really do anything for me. The characters are likeable enough but the pacing was a bit slow. Also, towards the end there's a major flashback (more of a rewind) that seemed to come out of nowhere and I found jarring. It took me a while to realize- "oh, this is a flashback here..." The story starts with the death of Cullen's cousin by drug overdose. Cullen, the main protagonist, has an eventful and life-changing summer. Besides the death of his cousin, his brother disappears and a once believed extinct woodpecker reappears, the so-called Lazarus woodpecker(ie, the Ivory-Billed woodpecker; there are a lot of similarities, and the setting in Arkansas I'm sure is deliberate). There's a b story as well that eventually ties in to the main story. The ending was a bit of a letdown, a bit anticlimatic.
65. The Midwife of Hope River, by Patricia Harman. Very enjoyable. Harman, who herself was a midwife, covers a lot of territory with her novel, which is set in the 1930s, during the beginning of the Great Depression. Patience Murphy (actually an alias) is more or less thrown into the role of the town midwife after her mentor dies unexpectedly. She feels completely out of her depth, but gradually comes to trust her own strengths and instincts. It takes place over a year, and includes a mining accident, racial tensions, economic woes, and domestic abuse. Patience herself harbors many secrets, which are revealed a bit at a time. But she also finds trust, new friends - sometimes from unlikely sources - and new love. The various beliefs about maternal care and childbirth were fascinating. I did find it interesting that Patience was pretty progressive but even she sometimes fell into wrong beliefs (more of a reflection of the time, not to mention the advantage of reader hindsight). The book is well paced, with the action and character development believable and well done.
Currently reading: Whiskey Island, by Les Roberts, and The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days at WMMS, by John Gorman.