Book Review: “The Orphan Mother” by Robert Hicks


“The Orphan Mother” by Robert Hicks (2016)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Page Length: 320 pages (electronic review copy)


In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock–the “Widow of the South”–has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered, Mariah–no stranger to loss–finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead?
Mariah’s journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people–including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own–and forces her to confront the truths of her own past.


*Note: I had no idea there was a prior novel to this story while reading The Orphan Mother. That being said, I also can feel it can also be read as a standalone.

The Orphan Mother is a historical novel set in the time of the civil war. The main protagonist, Mariah, goes on a journey of truth after her son is brutally murdered.What I appreciated most about the novel is that Hicks keeps the book realistic and accurate to the historical period. He doesn’t sugarcoat the high racial tensions after the Civil War and throughout the book there is a lot of animosity and tension in the air. Even though slavery is over African-Americans are still expected to be unseen, and the cities are highly segregated.

Mariah is quiet, skillful, and is set in her ways. She is a widowed midwife and has to deal with the death of her son after he perishes in a violent mob. As she slowly recovers from her son’s death, she feels as if she has lost everything because she is now all alone. Seeking the truth behind her son’s death and trying to put together the pieces of the mystery fills her life with a purpose once again. While Mariah is independent she is equally stubborn and doesn’t know how to break free from her old life. This inner turmoil is played out throughout the entire novel.

The other leading character named Tole is a free man from New York who is trying run away from his past. He chases down his demons down with alcohol while trying to make a better life for himself in Franklin. When he is drug into a job as a hit man, things start to spiral out of control, and soon after he ends up taking on the role of a vigilante because of his overwhelming guilt.

There’s not too much I can say about this book without giving much of the plot away. I will say that I loved the suspense that builds up as the mysteries unfold. Overall, I enjoyed the story’s pacing, smooth writing, and the character development.

Final Verdict:

4 star rating

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Orphan Mother” by Robert Hicks

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed this one! A fellow book blogger sent me her copy after I mentioned that I was not approved for an ARC. I am so excited to read it! I love civil war fiction.

    “He doesn’t sugarcoat the high racial tensions after the Civil War and throughout the book there is a lot of animosity and tension in the air.”

    This is what I like to see. Nothing bothers me more than civil war fiction that downplays the racial tension.

    Great review 🙂

  2. This sounds like a worthwhile story and the attention paid to complexities that are too-often glossed over in fiction about that time period is obviously an important part of telling the tale. Glad that you enjoyed it even without having known the rest of the story!

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