Reader’s Guide – Midwife of the Blue Ridge
- “The lass became Hannah’s shadow, attending the births, nursing the sick, tending the injured and laying out the dead.” Maggie Duncan was trained in midwifery from a very young age. In what ways does Maggie’s occupation as a midwife add to the development of her character and to the telling of the story?
- What are some of the political and social forces that draw Maggie Duncan and Tom Roberts together? What drives them apart?
- The Jacobite Rebellion of 1746, the French and Indian War, and Pontiac’s Uprising are three of the wars mentioned during the course of this story. Have a discussion on the impact of war as a catalyst by comparing war’s affect on the childhood experiences of Seth Martin, Maggie Duncan, Simon Peavey and Mary Bledsoe.
- MIDWIFE OF THE BLUE RIDGE is set during a time when the colonies were expanding into Native American territory. In what ways, positive and negative, does the resultant culture clash manifest itself? Three of the characters have direct and prolonged exposure to Native American culture. How does Tom’s attitude toward Native Americans differ from Simon’s? From Maggie’s?
- The women in this story deal with many hardships and much uncertainty. Can you compare the individual ways the female characters employ in order to cope and persevered in the face of adversity?
- The story depicts 18th century experiences and attitudes regarding death. Death was often sudden. Childbirth is dangerous. Infant mortality is high. Illness or violence can decimate entire communities. Have a discussion on the effect these 18th century realities had on the lives of the settlers. How do their experiences compare to your own in the 21st century?
- Themes of independence and slavery fuel the novel’s plot. What are some of the virtues and inequities inherent in the system of indentured servitude as portrayed in this story? How did the system affect Maggie’s life? In what ways did the servitude differ from slavery?
- At one point in the story, referring to his rifle, Seth tells Cavendish, “…a lout like me can sink a ball in yer brain from 100 yards with one of these.” Have a discussion on the role of the gun in the story and the impact of gun ownership on 18th century Colonial America.
- Given what you know about the characters, how do you envision they carry on with the rest of their lives?