An enjoyable outback romance.
If you want to be transported to the outback, The Desert Midwife is a good place to start.
It begins with a plane ride where two people from different worlds collide: there is Zac, the doctor from Sydney and Ava, the outback midwife. The first part of the novel is intense, exciting and enjoyable. McArthur presents relatable characters as the pair fall in love and familiarise themselves with each other, and we begin to appreciate the challenges of their union lasting, whilst at the same time sharing their optimism.
Then, the accident happens. Zac loses his memory and for him, their love is forgotten. As can only happen in the bush where remoteness dictates procedure, the ordinary approach to recovery is forgone and Ava is given a chance to reawaken Zac’s memory or rouse a new connection. The pair end up at Ava’s family’s cattle station.
It is in this setting that other characters are introduced – she lives with her mother Stella, brother Jock, and his wife Hana and grandmother Mim. The inter-generational household and connection with the Indigenous community in her best friend Denise and recent mother Jessamine, create a feeling of authenticity in the narrative.
The diversity of characters also allows for many outback issues to be explored – the need for cultural awareness when providing health care for Indigenous patients, the impact of the drought on one’s mental health, and people’s attachment to the land.
The setting of The Desert Midwife, as with many of McArthur’s fiction books, is outback Australia. McArthur has the highest admiration for outback pioneers and the medical staff who care for them and this adoration is evident throughout the novel. She has created strong female characters and a strong description of the medical plights that are expertly managed by staff. Her intimate knowledge of medicine and medical procedures draw from her many years of experience as a midwife and clinical midwifery teacher.
Reviewed by Rebecca Wu
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: July 2019