Review: The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhom

American author Ariel Lawthorn takes true events and shapes them into a twisty mystery in her latest offering The Frozen River. Martha Ballard is a midwife, living in small town in Maine of the Kennebec River. This particular winter is a tough one, and things take a sudden twist when a local man is found frozen in the ice in the river. Called to investigate, Martha finds herself examining the body of a local townsperson who is one of two men accused of the brutal rape of Rebecca Foster, the wife of a local minister. Martha is certain that the two crimes are linked--but proving it in a small town full of powerful men and petty prejudices will be something else entirely.

This was an interesting, twisty read, based on the true life story of Martha Ballad--a midwife who could indeed read and write (unusual for her era,) and was often called upon to testify in the local court. Sadly the brutal attack on Rebecca Foster is also based on historical fact. The novel is well researched, well written and compelling. With that in mind, I am sorry to report that I did not enjoy it more. It felt overlong in places and the brutality and small town prejudices were often difficult for me to stomach. I appreciated the strong female main character and the depiction of how midwives and how women in general were treated in that era.

While this one was not for me, I feel it will resonate well with many readers as a strong, feminist historical fiction.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of The Frozen River.


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