Cover Image: The Frozen River

The Frozen River

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Member Reviews

One of the best historical fiction books I have read. It was hard to put down. I absolutely loved Martha Ballard! What a strong heroine she was. The story was easy to follow and get wrapped up in and the setting was beautiful and perfect for a cold winter read. I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.

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What a fantastic book! I have no reservations about awarding five stars to The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. This wonderful book is a work of fiction inspired by the true story of Martha Ballard, a midwife in the late 1700s Maine who was a woman ahead of her time. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I loved this book. What a pleasant surprise. I didn't want it to end. I want to know what happens next to the family. It is seldom that I get involved with the characters as I did with those in this book. I also found interesting and sad how women were treated in those days. Imagine not being able to speak in court unless your husband was present. This is a book to take your time and savor.

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Fantastic read, one of my top reads of 2023. I loved the setting and seeing life post Revolutionary War.

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The Frozen River, based on a true story about midwife Martha Ballard, is an exceptional example of historical fiction at its finest! Martha a strong confident woman was a true advocate for women in a time when women were not considered equal.

Ariel Lawhon with her brilliant prose and vivid descriptions kept me engrossed from the very first page, and had me sitting on the edge of my seat in this wonderful complex historical thriller mystery. This intriguing sensational story is educational, thought provoking and arouses emotion throughout.

Highly recommended this book about Martha Ballad, an exceptional woman, fighting for justice.

I received a complimentary copy courtesy of Doubleday through NetGalley. I was not obligated to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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I liked that the protagonist was an intelligent, hard working and honest midwife. Set in the late 1700s, Martha Ballard must work against a belief that women were viewed as property and had very little rights of their own. Because of Martha’s doggedness and the support of her husband, she sets out to solve the death of a man frozen in a local river. She soon discovers this might be connected to an alleged rape.

I’ve read other books by Ariel Lawson so I was fairly comfortable in expecting a well written story. This book went way beyond those expectations. This was a story I connected with from the very beginning. It never slowed down or got boring. I can’t say I was surprised by how well this was written. But I will say that I was very pleased to read a book that held my attention throughout.

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I dove into this without really reading much at all and I didn't realize until the end that this was all based on a real person and her life!

It's so hard to say much without spoilers so I will just say that I think that this book would appeal to those who like Outlander. Martha gives me a lot of badass Claire vibes (and I mean this in the best way possible) and her husband is kind of a Jamie-light.

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for an eARC copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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It's 1789 and Martha Ballard is writing herself into the page of history. Based on the real Martha Ballard is an experienced midwife. In her 30 years of helping women deliver babies, she has never lost a mother. But now her role of knowing the enter workings of Hallowell, Maine, is expanded to include investigating a murder after an attempted rapist she took testimony against shows up dead in the ice.

Told over the course of one winter, this story follows Martha as she navigates the scandal, gossip, and prejudices in her close knit town to get to the truth. Her loyalties are tested and her family is involved, so what will it look like for justice to be served?
I have seen this book described as a book about motherhood, old married love, and justice. And it is about all those things. But my takeaway from the theme of this book is that it's a book about power. Who holds it and how do you use power for your benefit or the benefit of others.

On paper this is a book that is not necessarily in my wheelhouse. It has beautiful prose and at it's core is a book about this woman's everyday life. Yes she is involved in this rape trial, but it's not too far off her ordinary existence. But Ariel Lawhon fleshed about this story and infused it with character development and transportive atmospheric descriptions that I stayed up way past my bedtime enthralled with the people and happenings of this town.

I fully immersed myself in this story and I'm so glad I read this with my book club because there is so much to discuss in these pages. And the ending. You will definitely want to have someone to talk about that with!

Because of the elements of old married love and having a firecracker female as a medical professional, this book gives me Outlander vibes. So if you are an Outlander fan, especially the later books, I think you will enjoy this one.
Content warning: language, murder, violence, birth stories (both positive and negative), graphic recollections of sexual assault, attempted abortion, pregnancy out of wedlock (and shaming for such).
Thanks to Netgalley and Double Day Books for the gifted book. All opinions are my own)

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Maine 1789 during a bitter winter is the setting for the story which takes us back to a time when women were lesser beings than men. A body is discovered in the river, and midwife Martha Ballard has determined that the cause is murder. Martha takes us into her life in trying to figure out the cause of the murder, as well as convince the upper townsmen that one has actually occurred. As in previous books by this author, the story is gripping, tense and draws you in right from the beginning. The book is based on an actual person and the story flows seamlessly to its gripping conclusion. Another great book by Ariel Lawhon. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for ad advanced copy.

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5* This is why I love historical fiction
This book is based on the diary of Martha Ballard a late 1700s midwife from Maine
All of the characters in the book became so real and relatable. The book had murder, suspense,love and friendship. I would definitely recommend
Thank you to Netgalley for this copy for my honest review.

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The Frozen River tells the tale of Martha Ballard, a mother and midwife practicing in Maine in the 1700's. Martha is the wife of a mill owner and she has had her share of heartache, losing 3 of her own children to sickness over the years. The main practicing midwife in town, she is called to birth many babies at all hours of the day and night, and he skill is unsurpassed. When a body is pulled out of the river, Martha begins to look into the reasons behind why the body of a young man came to be in the frozen river. Even more disturbing is that her two oldest sons were both in an altercation with the young man the day before he was found dead. This story is captivating and extremely interesting. I had a hard time putting it down. It's based on a true story, which makes it even more fascinating.

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Ms. Lawhon weaves an amazing story based on the life and diary of midwife, Martha Ballard! When a body is discovered frozen in the Kennebec River, Martha Ballard works tirelessly to prove that not only did one of her relatives not commit the murder but to prove who the killer is. Aided by the support of her husband but hindered by the new local physician, Martha risks even her life to solve the mystery.

Kudos to Ms. Lawhon for bringing Martha Ballard's story to light and life and for doing it so originally.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who loves thrillers and historical fiction.

I received an ARC from the publisher. My review is my own opinion and is done by my own volition.

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A body is found in a frozen river in Maine in 1789 and Martha, the local midwife, is called to pronounce death. She finds rope burns and abrasions that lead her to conclude that the man was beaten and hanged. Controversy ensues when a new doctor in the town proclaims she is mistaken and that the death might be accidental. What really happened and who is involved, becomes the basic premise of the novel. Martha is determined to discover the details surrounding the death but her investigation is complicated by secrets and the fact that the town’s judge thwarts anyone who makes claims he dislikes. He himself has been accused of wrongdoing and Martha is well aware of his bad behaviors. But it’s 1789 and townfolk often administer their own retribution. They don’t always rely on courts to satisfy injustices.

The book is based on the real Martha Ballard who was a successful midwife. She, like all women of the time, had to deal with the subservient role assigned to females. The new young doctor in town tests her reputation, leading some to dismiss her skill as a midwife, though there are many who continue to value her. Martha is dogged in her determination to help the women of her town and to learn the truth behind the body from the frozen river.

The plot is very engaging and the female characters are often shown as victims. They are subject to abuse, must toil hard with little appreciation, and have no say in their lives. Martha stands out as a true trailblazer. She is a wonderful example of early feminist efforts to give women respect and empowerment. Her care for her patients transcends birthing children and she is a beacon of hope to many in the community. This is a wonderful novel about women and resiliency, about one woman’s attempts to bring justice and sound medical care to women who so desperately need a champion.

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Readers expect historical fiction to transport them to a different place and time, but when the genre shines a subtle mirror on the present and reflects shocking societal similarities – in this case 235 years later – it is all the more powerful. That’s this book.

The book-jacket copy tells you, already, that this is the story of a midwife and healer – based on the real-life woman, Martha Ballard. You know there will be babies and family and heartache. And love. You also expect examples of the role (and mistreatment) of women in the 1780s. I expected this, of course, but was reminded, with the Roe vs. Wade reversal, how women still are at the mercy, largely, of male lawmakers.

That’s not what this book is about, but it made me think. In fact, the novel doesn’t take a political, in-your-face stance like so much fiction today (which I am growing weary of). The author set out to write a book about Martha. About people. Not hot topics. It’s billed as a murder mystery, but the characterization is deep and there are lovely hat tips to Shakespeare as well as a fox with metaphorical significance.

It’s a book, as I said, that bridges decades and makes the reader think – about women, yes; about great love; about family love; about justice; about bucking the system; and about being honorable, good human beings. And I think that is why it’s resonating with so many readers. We see ourselves in these pages. Lawhon is a talented author, so it also doesn’t hurt that her writing is assured and often poetic.

I attended her reading in Phoenix last week and she said, “I figured no one would want to read about this, so knowing no one would want to read it, I took a chance and just threw it all in there,” (referring to the mystery component, the rape, the animal symbolism, the medicine, the law)… Well… I’m here to say, along with many others… it worked! Lawhon also admitted… all those romantic gestures in the book … they were inspired by her own husband.

Highly recommend. I mean… who better than Ariel Lawhon to write a novel about a midwife plucked from the pages of history who gave birth to nine children? Lawhon, herself, has four boys and her mother’s births were all performed by midwives at home. Being among the oldest, she witnessed one of those as a teen, and, as an adult, the home birth of one of her sister’s children.

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I am FLOORED! This book was so good. It was always on my radar, but all the excellent reviews I’ve seen pushed it right to the top. I’m so glad I read it sooner rather than later. It was the perfect atmospheric winter read.

Let’s talk about Martha. I have never heard of her. I absolutely love to read historical fiction books about people/events that are less widely known. Her characterization was one of the best things about this book. She loved her family, advocated for the people she came into contact with, and never wavered on what was right. She was brave and courageous, and I was rooting for her the entire time.

Her relationship with her husband, Ephraim, was what dreams are made of. I enjoyed the little snippets of their life together, and how he supported her to no end.

Along with insights into Martha’s and her family’s everyday lives, there is also both a murder and assault case that are being brought to trial in their town. The truths of what happened were slowly and expertly revealed. We get a snapshot of how women were considered unequal to men in that time period. It was heartbreaking and had me getting mad at different points.

Just absolutely amazing. I enjoyed every single minute of reading this book.

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Martha Ballard is a midwife in a small town in the period right after the Revolutionary War. A death in the small town implicates many town residents. Including one of Martha's sons. The man found dead is one of two men accused of raping the pastor's wife. Martha's strong personality leads her to seek out the truth of what happened the night of the murder, and the more she investigates the more guilty one of the town's respectable members becomes.

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Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read and give an honest review of this book.

This historical fiction book takes place in 1798. It is about the life of
midwife, Martha Ballard. We get to know Martha’s husband and children.
We see moments of happiness and times of grief that Martha and her family experienced. We get to know Martha’s neighbors and the folks in her village.

On a cold winter night, as the river is freezing, a body is found and pulled, frozen from the river. Martha is summoned to check out the dead man and she determines that he was most likely murdered. Thus, the mystery begins. The victim was not especially liked. He had been accused of raping a woman in the village and he was awaiting his trial. Potentially, there are several people that had motive for the murder. Will Martha be able to solve the murder?

This book is well written. The characters are interesting and well developed. The clues throughout the book lead to a logical conclusion.

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Oh my word. I really enjoyed this book! I was captivated by Martha and her story. I loved how dedicated she was to her job of midwifery., seeing how she treated each of her patients with respect and knew her job so well. I loved her relationship with her husband and children. I appreciate how she wasn't perfect and acknowledged when she messed up or when her emotions got the better of her. I loved how fierce she became at injustice, in particular the double standard for men and women. It was interesting to read about New England at this time. The story line of the rape case and the murder was captivating and frustrating at the same time. The villain was clear from early on and he was infuriating throughout. I love a book that can bring out emotions in me and while I didn't cry for this one, I did have lots of feelings. I just loved Ariel Lawhon's author's note at the end as she shared what was factual and what was adjusted or imagined for the sake of the story. This was an easy 5 stars for me and already a potential favorite of the year.

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"The Frozen River" is near-perfect historical fiction about the real-life midwife Martha Ballard. It's only very loosely a mystery, but it's a fascinating look at gender roles in early America. Highly recommended!

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The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon is an incredible journey in time as we learn about Martha Ballard’s incredible life. I love that Lawhon brought this remarkable woman to life as her strength, smarts, honesty, and compassion are all things we can learn from.

The book starts with a jolt as a man accused of rape is found dead in the frozen river. Ballard, a midwife and healer, is called to the scene which starts this compelling plot. The mystery behind what actually happened is woven through the story as well as several subplots that focus on some of the townspeople.

I found life in the late 1700s to be fascinating. Whether scenes took place in the town, the courthouse or at one of the frolics, I was completely invested. I loved the way Martha mothered, and her relationship with her husband was beautiful. Her smarts were on display at all times and the fact that she journaled with precious quill and ink was certainly ahead of her time.

The pacing for this book was spot on and her ability to create tension with the antagonists were done well. The characters were flawed, yet relatable, and the story was shrewdly layered to keep the pace moving.

The author’s note at the end of the book shares how she learned about the real Martha Ballard but do not read the notes until you finish the book. It will spoil the experience of reading this gem. I had the luxury of listening to the gorgeous narration of Jane Oppenheimer while also reading it.

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