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The Frontier Nursing Service (FNS) supplies nurse-midwives to the people of the eastern Kentucky Appalachian area. Ann Gabhart, in These Healing Hills, tells us the fictional story of one of them.
Francine Howard left behind her life in Cincinnati to train as a nurse-midwife. She had been jilted by her supposed fiancé and felt led to a new area and life. She’d signed on with the FNS with their promise of “Your Horse, Your Dog, and a Thousand Miles of Kentucky Mountains to Serve.” Learning to be a midwife, to catch babies, was only part of the job, however. She had to milk the cow, take care of the horses, tend a garden, and take care of all the odds and ends of ailments and injuries that came her way.
As Fran learns her job, she falls in love with the mountains and the mountain people. Instead of keeping her distance from them, she becomes part of their family–especially one, the Lockes. Their son Woody is a help at the station as well as a sometimes guide, sometimes gossiper, all the time talker. Daughter Sadie is mourning her dad, but Fran breaks through the sorrow with kind words-and leaves eardrops for her ailment. Then married daughter Becca returns and brings music to their lives. And the son who has been at war comes home-and crosses Fran’s path in the woods. Granny Em, an almost mythical character, speaks wisdom into Fran’s life.
You’ll want to read These Healing Hills. The book is alive with love of Kentucky Appalachian area. You can feel the mountain breezes, taste the cool waters of the creeks, and smell the flowers in bloom. Fran is an amazing character you immediately care for–she is courageous, has common sense, and is the type of nurse we’d all like to have. The Lockes live too–you’ll chuckle at Woody’s antics, want to play with Sadie and Priscilla, her doll, and sing along with the women to brighten your day. And you’ll be exasperated with Ben when he comes home from the war. I highly recommend These Healing Hills–your spirit will be healed too. Five stars.
Ann H. Gabhart is, to quote her bio, the bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home; several Shaker novels such as The Outsider, The Believer, and The Innocent, along with The Heart of Hollyhill Series. As A. H. Gabhart, she is the author of The Hidden Springs Mysteries Series. Ann’s country roots go deep, and she and her husband still live on a country farm just over the hill from where she was born in a farmhouse built around a log cabin. Find out more at annhgabhart.com.
Revell Books gave me a copy of These Healing Hills, but I was in no way obligated to write a review.