The Frozen River: A Novel
Based on the life of Martha Ballard, an 18th-century midwife in Maine,The Frozen Riveris mesmerizing. Martha is brilliant and strong in a period when women were lucky to read. Throw in a murder mystery with vivid characters? Heaven.
GMA BOOK CLUB PICK • AN NPR BOOK OF THE YEAR • From the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia and Code Name Hélène comes a gripping historical mystery inspired by the life and diary of Martha Ballard, a renowned 18th-century midwife who defied the legal system and wrote herself into American history.
"Fans of Outlander’s Claire Fraser will enjoy Lawhon’s Martha, who is brave and outspoken when it comes to protecting the innocent. . . impressive."—The Washington Post
"Once again, Lawhon works storytelling magic with a real-life heroine." —People Magazine
Maine, 1789: When the Kennebec River freezes, entombing a man in the ice, Martha Ballard is summoned to examine the body and determine cause of death. As a midwife and healer, she is privy to much of what goes on behind closed doors in Hallowell. Her diary is a record of every birth and death, crime and debacle that unfolds in the close-knit community. Months earlier, Martha documented the details of an alleged rape committed by two of the town’s most respected gentlemen—one of whom has now been found dead in the ice. But when a local physician undermines her conclusion, declaring the death to be an accident, Martha is forced to investigate the shocking murder on her own.
Over the course of one winter, as the trial nears, and whispers and prejudices mount, Martha doggedly pursues the truth. Her diary soon lands at the center of the scandal, implicating those she loves, and compelling Martha to decide where her own loyalties lie.
Clever, layered, and subversive, Ariel Lawhon’s newest offering introduces an unsung heroine who refused to accept anything less than justice at a time when women were considered best seen and not heard. The Frozen River is a thrilling, tense, and tender story about a remarkable woman who left an unparalleled legacy yet remains nearly forgotten to this day.
Praise for The Frozen River: A Novel
An NPR Best Book of 2023
“The narrator of Ariel Lawhon’s The Frozen River is another stalwart heroine. . .detailed descriptions of the routines of village life give this narrative its intimate sense of connection — and set [the narrator] up for a pivotal confrontation.” --The New York Times Book Review
"Fans of 'Outlander’s' Claire Fraser will enjoy Lawhon’s Martha, who is brave and outspoken when it comes to protecting the innocent. . . impressive." --The Washington Post
“Compelling . . .a most uncozy mystery that addresses the unbalanced power dynamics of men and women, rich and poor.” --NPR, Weekend Edition
“Martha Ballard is not just a Maine midwife who’s never lost a patient. She’s also a truth speaker and a justice seeker in an era when women can’t even testify in court. . .Once again, Lawhon works storytelling magic with a real-life heroine.” --People Magazine, Book of the Week
“[Lawhon’s] gripping tale…feels like an authentic foray into the past and her wonderful heroine rings true. Indeed, Martha is so vividly rendered that it is hard not to become absorbed in her narrative and emotionally invested in her life. . . Martha’s journal entries flesh out further this tough, brave and resourceful woman. Her valiant fight against the evil that men do makes for a winning blend of fact and fiction.” --Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Part murder mystery, part historical fiction . . . this novel has a gothic, wintry feel that makes it an ideal fireside read.” --Real Simple
"A richly satisfying drama . . . A vivid, exciting page-turner from one of our most interesting authors of historical fiction.” --Kirkus, starred review
“Outstanding. . . Martha is an extraordinary character. . . Lawhon's first-rate tale should entrance readers passionate about early America and women’s history.” --Booklist, starred review
“Atmospheric, unique and elegantly written, The Frozen River will satisfy mystery lovers and historical fiction enthusiasts alike.” --BookPage, starred review
“Gripping. . . Examines the ripple effects of a crime in a small community—and paints a striking portrait of a woman devoted to healing and justice. . . Lawhon draws on the real Martha Ballard’s diary to construct her narrative, which contains a number of breathless twists and a large cast of hardscrabble characters. . . Lawhon’s novel is a riveting story of small-town justice and a fitting tribute to a quiet, determined heroine.” --Shelf Awareness, starred review
"The stirring story of one woman’s quest for justice. . . Lawhon combines modern prose with the immediacy of her source material, making for an accessible and textured narrative. This accomplished historical powerfully speaks to centuries-old inequities that remain in the present day." --Publishers Weekly
“Unputdownable. . . an intriguing protagonist, a twisty mystery, rich period detail. . . In a novel focused on weighty issues and worthy struggles, it was a joy to stumble across this standout, satisfying love story.” --Christian Science Monitor
"A thoroughly engaging, rich story with a murder mystery; secrets, gossip, and hypocrisy; a corrupt judge; a tightly knit community of villagers; women at the mercy of a patriarchal society; and the early stages of a developing justice system following the Revolutionary War. . . Turn the last page, and you will want more of this world she has created." --Historical Novel Society
“The Frozen River is so vivid, so textured and multilayered, that I felt I'd opened a door and entered post-revolutionary America, walking beside Lawhon's compelling characters in a time and place riven by hardship, disease, and misogyny, but also intense love and searing natural beauty. This novel was unlike anything I'd read before, and it left me awe-struck.” --Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of City of Light and Ashton Hall
“Simultaneously a mystery, a manifesto, and a memoir, The Frozen River resurrects both Martha’s story and the stories of those she fought for.” --Chapter 16
“This engrossing mystery . . . brings to life a fascinating woman who would otherwise be lost to time.” --First for Women
“Ariel Lawhon does an amazing job not only of bringing the historical period to life, but also of drawing parallels between Martha’s struggles and the continuing fight of victims to be believed here in the 21st century. . . Gripping and occasionally harrowing, this is historical fiction that reminds readers of how much we owe the pioneers of the past for the liberties we have today, and how we must fight never to let those hard-earned rights be taken away.” --Criminal Element