Book Buzz: The Frozen River

The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon 

It’s winter 1789 in Hallowell, Maine. Midwife Martha Ballard is summoned to the town’s tavern to attend a patient. When she arrives, Martha is surprised to learn she’s been asked to examine a body found frozen in the icy Kennebec River earlier that morning. The dead man is Joshua Burgess, who, along with another man, stands accused of raping a local woman. The rape has not been brought to trial, and Martha is one of the few who seems to believe an assault occurred. Now Burgess has been murdered. It’s obvious to Martha that the rape and the murder are connected, and she slowly realizes that she might be the only one able to push for justice. As in her previous books, author Ariel Lawhon grounds this work in fact, drawing from Martha Ballard’s real-life notes and journals to recreate true events. This is historical fiction done right – immersive and character-rich, a page-turner that’s faithful to the past even as it addresses larger issues that are still relevant today. 

Reviewed by Mary Kinser, collection development librarian, Whatcom County Library System

(Originally published in Bellingham Alive March 2024 issue.)