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Francine Howard’s marriage plans fall apart when the soldier wrote her to tell her he had fallen in love with someone else. She was devastated and jumps at the chance to train as midwife in the Frontier Nursing Service in the Appalachian Mountains. The mountain views and mountain people touch her heart. After many years in the army, Ben Locke is eager to return to the fresh mountain air of his home in the Appalachian Mountains. Once home, he meets Francine and the life he thought he wanted, is no longer.
Number of Pages: 368
Publication Date: 2017
|Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)|
Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he's at a loss when it comes to envisioning what's next for his life.
When Francine's and Ben's paths intersect, it's immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.
VictoriaCanadaAge: 25-34Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5These Healing HillsNovember 14, 2017VictoriaCanadaAge: 25-34Gender: femaleQuality: 4Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Historical fiction, WWII era, frontier nurses. Check, check, check. I knew with all of these elements, the odds of my enjoying These Healing Hills by Ann Gabhart was fairly high. What I didn't realize is what a gem I'd find in this new to me author and the Appalachian Mountains she wove into life.
One review on the back cover calls this a "beautifully crafted story" and that is a wonderful description of what Gabhart has achieved. Gabhart has used her research to invite readers into a small section of mountain life in 1945.
As anyone who's poked around here before knows, I need a good character to connect with a story and Gabhart provides a mountain full. The Locke family are real, I love how Gabhart has captured the dynamics of life on the mountain among such a diverse family of characters who are relearning how to be in the same space after so many changes. Equally captivating is Francine, our intrepid nurse. Again, I really came to appreciate Gabhart's attention to detail in her characters. Fran's wrestling with her insecurities were well established and her confusion about how to proceed in life feels relatable.
Oh, and can we talk about the amazing Granny Em? What a character, I love how Gabhart showed the transition of eras with Granny Em's wisdom and knowledge of the old ways. Honestly, I would be crushed if this book found a sequel without Granny Em's ever present wisdom.
Stylistically, I found Gabhart to have a blend that was quick to draw me in as a reader and hold my attention. Using actual historical records to base her frontier nurses on lent interest and credibility for the geek in me, but the earnestness with which she conveyed the humour, hardworking nature, and love of the mountains inherent to her characters lent a richness to the novel that made me wish I was doing rounds with Fran (although I can guarantee we'd still need Ben or Woody to rescue us from our own sense of direction).
Fans of historical fiction will probably not find any major surprises in the overall plotlines, whether it's Fran's coming into her own, Ben's readjustment to life post-war, or Woody's brink of manhood adventures and yet the charm of this book and it's characters draws me like the mountains draw in Fran.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."
KavRCanadaGender: female5 Stars Out Of 5Amazing!November 7, 2017KavRCanadaGender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5This book cast a spell over me. Enchanting. Captivating. Riveting. And the word-crafting! Sheer beauty! No skimming allowed -- you'll want to savor every single sentence.
Gabhart celebrates the life and culture of a proud mountain people with reverence and respect. Francine is just as enthralled as I am! Never mind that her nurse midwife mentor expects her to remain apart (really 'above') these simple hill folk. But Francine can see the beauty in that simplicity -faith, family and service. It brings her a unique sense of belonging which is a stark contrast to her sterile upbringing.
And then there's Ben. He's spent his years in the war aching to feel the mountain back under his feet but once he's home he finds himself yearning for something more. Especially when a certain 'brought-in nurse' keeps getting lost on his mountain. Sigh. Their love story is the perfect blend of laughter and uncertainty and oh-so-sweet-and-tender hope.
Some of my favourite parts in the book are the snippets of wisdom we get from the sage elders who played a significant role in Ben and Francine's lives. Things like this: "What was it his pa used to say when Ben started worrying a problem like a dog licking a sore? You don't have to know the last step. Just the first one. You and the Lord can figure out the rest of it on the way." (p 218) I've got that written out on a card and taped to my wall now -- I'm in desperate need of enough faith to trust that 'the Lord and I can figure out the rest' in many areas of my life. And this book is full of sage takeaways like that.
There's a quality in the storytelling that stays with a reader long after the last page has been read. Definitely one of my favourite novels of 2017.
Book provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications Inc.
Rebecca ManeyGastonia, North CarolinaAge: 55-65Gender: female4 Stars Out Of 5Fascinating and Entertaining Historical!October 28, 2017Rebecca ManeyGastonia, North CarolinaAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5"You might be confused on how to get to some place, but with the good Lord beside you, you're never lost."
Aspiring Frontier Nurse Midwife Francine Howard is always getting lost, much to her chagrin and to the amusement of the Appalachian mountain folk she labors to serve while "catching babies". When caught in a rainstorm due to an errant horse, she is rescued by a local man returning to his Kentucky home after serving as a medic in World War II. While sheltering together underneath a crop of rocks, her mentor's mantra rings strangely true, "no one comes here by accident".
Benjamin Locke has made it home alive. "But happy ain't always so easy to catch and hold on to as the the storybooks tell us"; Ben's family needs him, especially now that his father has passed, his youngest sister is in frail health, and one of his other sisters has come to live with them while she is in the "family way". Nurse Howard seems to have won the hearts of his siblings rather quickly, and it seems that Ben's thoughts turn towards the pretty nurse way too often as well. Regrettably, Francine is not from the mountain and while Ben has no idea what his future holds, he can only pray that "the Lord would point the way".
This story has a lovely lilt, its characters comfortable in their own skin, and a setting that is sure to satisfy.
MauriKansasAge: 45-54Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5These Healing HillsOctober 27, 2017MauriKansasAge: 45-54Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5I loved this book. Granny Em counseled Francine Howard to listen for the rhythm of the mountains as a way to help her know her way around the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, where Fran was training with the Frontier Nursing Service to be a nurse midwife, since she was prone to getting lost.
Ann Gabhart's book has an easy rhythm as well that causes the reader to put themselves in the story, feeling the cold rain, catching the babies, getting lost on the mountain (and being rescued by Ben, a handsome mountain man just home from the war). Though her mother was against her going from Cincinnati to Kentucky, and she was cautioned by other Frontier nurses not to get emotionally close to any of the mountain families they serve, Fran can't help liking the Locke family: 15 year old Woody who shows her the way to the hospital when she first arrives, chattering all the way; four year old Sadie, who is "punying around" so needs Fran's nursing skills; Becca, their young, pregnant sister; their mother who respects Fran's skills but cautions oldest son, Ben, about his growing interest in Fran. Fran tries to convince herself she isn't becoming attracted to Ben. Besides the human characters, Sarge, the dog Ben gives Fran, plays a very important part in the book. I wasn't aware of the Frontier Nursing Service, so it was a good introduction to this part of history.
beloved569Sterling, COAge: 25-34Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5New Things to EnjoyOctober 18, 2017beloved569Sterling, COAge: 25-34Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5The further I got in this book the harder it was to put down. I'd never heard of Frontier Nurses and learning about them provided an interesting backdrop to the story. Sometimes books like these would appeal more to someone in a similar profession but not so with this book. I felt like I could truly enjoy the story line as well as the uniqueness of the characters with no prior background knowledge. A few times I thought I knew what to expect in the plot but was pleasantly surprised when it took a different twist.