The Orphan Mother: A NovelThe Orphan Mother: A Novel by Robert Hicks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Orphan Mother gives the reader a first-hand insight into what it was like to live in the years immediately following the Civil War. Mariah Reddick, a former slave now working as a midwife, is carving out a life for herself when her son is killed in the town square during a political rally. Her loss leads her on a quest to find out what happened the day her son died. As the reader follows Mariah, we meet George Tole, a man who was never a slave but has invisible chains in his past, and the people of Franklin, Tennessee.

Robert Hicks’ prose is amazing. Several times, I had to stop to reread a section and admire the beauty of the words. The characters are drawn with a subtly that takes them out of their historical framework and makes them living breathing people.

One of the things that impressed me about this novel (and there are many) was the depth of historical information. There are many books set in and around the Civil War, but I have read very few that captures the human experience of the people of the South quite so well. The specificity of detail in and around Franklin made the story all the more engaging.

I take it from other reviews that The Orphan Mother is a companion piece to The Widow of the South. I have not read that book and understand that some of the relationships between the reoccurring characters are more central in that novel, but The Orphan Mother stands on its own. I may now go back and read Robert Hicks’ other work.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for my honest review.

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