The Frozen River by American author Ariel Lawhon is a fascinating and moving historical crime fiction about an extraordinary woman. The fact that Martha Ballard was a real person makes it even more special.
Hallowell Maine, 1789 Martha, known as Mrs. Ballard to the community, had been the town’s midwife and healer for over a decade. She never let families down and would always make her way to them when there was a cry for help.
Although she had never received formal medical training, Martha harvested herbs to treat anything from a cough to an aching limb and kept a diary of all the happenings she encountered.
Townsman, James Burgess is found dead in the frozen Kennebec River. He is known as one of two men who allegedly assaulted a couple of local women, including Rebecca Foster, the pastor’s wife. Martha is called to examine the body as his death looks suspicious. While it appears he was hung, there is no evidence of a rope.
Martha knew that she would be able to find the answers in her diary as she had accounted for the attack when Mrs Foster asked for her help. She suspects both cases are linked, and as the inquest begins, there is more than meets the eye. Will the truth be revealed as the mystery unfolds?
The characters are well-fleshed-out and have layers to their personalities that make them feel dynamic and compelling. There is a clear definition between the protagonist and supporting characters as the plot thickens with intensity and excitement. The historical aspect of the book gives a glimpse into the life of times gone by; an excellent job was done to present the most authentic account of life in those times.
The author had a fantastic character to work with in Martha, and she did an amazing job of bringing her to life for readers. She beautifully highlighted her successes and triumphs, as well as her disappointments. Martha was forthright, headstrong, and full of a desire to help others.
Without her careful accounting of thousands of diary entries over nearly three decades there would be little record of the lives and events in Maine during that time.
Ariel Lawhon has crafted a superbly involved, in-depth, and immersive work of historical fiction.
The plot is full of action, adventure, mystery, murder, and miracles. A compelling narrative is woven into the story with settings that make readers feel as if they have simply slipped through the pages and into the scenes. It’s clear that a huge amount of detailed research has gone into creating the atmosphere, setting, and feel of the dialogue in this well-penned piece of work.
I love the book cover; it is creepy yet beautiful. It has a ghostly atmosphere, while the figure amongst the scenery reminds us of a familiar comforting place.
This is one of those human-interest stories that feel universal and demand your attention no matter what type of reader you are, I highly recommend it.
If you like The Frozen River, we recommend Twenty Years Later:
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
My love of books started at a very young age. My mum has always been a reader and encouraged me to read, buying me endless book from classic fairy tales advancing to the world of Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Kathryn Kenny, Carolyn Keene, Francine Pascal. In my adult years the list of authors is endless and every room in my house is filled with books.
One of my favourite novels is Narnia which has always has a special place in my heart. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1978 and when I was given this book to read it let me escape to another world where I felt like I was in the book with all the characters, it wasfun and exciting to escape from reality and eased the ups and downs of the disease at such a young age.
In books nothing is impossible and there is endless potential and hundreds of places to explore or being taken to places that are only made up from the authors’ great minds, the past and future to navigate, characters lives you step into taking you on an emotional rollercoaster ride or being scared out of your wits. I can experience things that I can’t in real life because they’re not possible or real. It challenges my perspective and mindset expanding my worldview.
I find joy, comfort and peace with books, many people may not get it, but I know bookworms like me truly understand. Reading makes my heart happy.