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What readers think of The Frozen River, plus links to write your own review.

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Frozen River

A Novel

by Ariel Lawhon

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon X
The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Dec 2023, 448 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
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There are currently 5 reader reviews for The Frozen River
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Charges pending, witness, diary…

A death, a rape, a trial…. Justice???

Martha is a midwife in 1780s Hallowell , Maine. When a body is found in the icy Kennebec River, she is called to determine the cause of death. The new Harvard-educated, male doctor in town, Dr. Page, disagrees with her findings, citing “accident” as the cause of death.

The body found in the frozen river just happened to be accused of raping the pastor’s wife (along with another “respected” towns person).

A tale of everyday frontier life in the 18th century, journaling, tending to women’s health, prejudice, and equal justice for all.

BRAVO - a great read!

I bought this book last month. I wish I had read it sooner! This will DEFINITELY be in my top reads for this year! Highly recommend!

I have read / enjoyed all of Lawhon’s books but this is my new favorite! This will be a hard act to follow!

Much interesting info about court procedures. Example: court in a tavern and who can & cannot testify in this period of time.

Martha was ahead of the times. A confident, bold, candid, commanding personality. Info online about the real Martha and her diary / journal. The author’s note is a must - read.

Great characters - some you will love and others to hate!
Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

Magnificent Storytelling! Page-Turning Historical Fiction Wrapped Around a Riveting Whodunit
Oh, what a novel! It just pulled me in and wouldn't let go.

Before you read this book, know two important things:
1. Clear your schedule! Once you start reading, it will be really (really!) hard to stop. Yes, it's THAT good.
2. When you finish it, you will have a whopping book hangover.

Magnificently written by Ariel Lawhon, this is page-turning historical fiction wrapped around a murder mystery. It takes place from November 1789 to April 1790 in the small village of Hallowell, Maine during a particularly frigid, icy, and stormy winter. Martha Ballard is a 54-year-old midwife and healer, lovingly married to Ephraim, and mother of six (mostly) grown children. One night in late November after a town dance (called a "frolic"), Joshua Burgess is found dead in the mostly frozen Kennebac River. It takes seven men to haul him out. But this isn't a man who drowned. He has distinct rope burns on his neck, indicating a hanging, as well as bruises and broken bones, indicating a beating.

The plot thickens. The dead man, along with Joseph North, one of the leading and most powerful citizens of the town, are together accused of brutally raping the minister's wife, Rebecca Foster, who becomes pregnant with the baby of one of the rapists. Was Burgess's murder connected to the rape? Outspoken, fearless Martha is determined to solve this mystery and seek justice for the victims even at great risk to herself and her family.

The novel is not only a riveting whodunit with smart twists and turns, but also a brilliant story about life in these difficult times early in our country's history. I was completely captivated reading this imaginative tale with colorful characters, a bit of love and romance, and magnificent storytelling.

Be sure to read the "Author's Note" at the end, as it describes in detail what is and isn't historical fact in this novel. I was quite surprised at how much of it is true. But don't read the "Author's Note" until you have finished the book, as it's filled with story spoilers.

Bonus: Quotations from Shakespeare's plays run throughout the novel, and many of them are the best ones—the ones that so eloquently insult and defame. Read them and laugh!
Linda J

Lawhon’s Best!
This book is definitely going on my favorite of all time's list. I could not spend enough time with this engrossing story of a midwife, Martha Ballard, in 1789 who, as a vital person in her Maine community, finds herself involved in what she perceives as a murder while a younger, male, Harvard grad, physician disagrees with her determination.

As if this story line isn't enough, Lawhon includes Ballard's family is among the well-developed characters. Her relationship with her husband is full of mutual respect and consideration.

I had just a little trouble keeping track of other citizens, but usually was able to be reminded within a few paragraphs (thanks to Lawhon's mastery) exactly who had just re-entered the story.
Sandy Connell

One of the best books I've read
This is an excellent story based on of a real life midwife in the 1700s.It is historical fiction, murder mystery, and a love story wrapped into one, and a fascinating book that you can't stop reading!

The Frozen River: A midwife fights prejudice against women in early America
This is historical mystery focused on the life of a real midwife in post revolutionary America. While respected by women, a midwife was not respected by the medical community in early America and although she has the role of giving testimony on mortalities, when she gives her opinion that a recent death is a murder she conflicts with the powers that want to rule an accidental drowning. I loved the setting of this book- in Maine's winter- and the writer makes you feel "chilled' at every turn. The mystery of the death unfolds among side stories of other discriminations against women and powerful men controlling the community. Evil lurks, but our heroine will not give up on her quest for the truth! If you enjoyed books like Lady Tan's Circle of Women you will enjoy seeing the role of a courageous midwife in early America.
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Beyond the Book:
  Midwifery in Colonial America

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