Read with Sharon - APRIL 2024

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The Frozen River - Ariel Lawhon

Initially I had scheduled The Frozen River as my January #ReadWithSharon book club pick, but due to inventory issues, this selection was moved to April. And I can promise you, this book is worth the wait!

Inspired by the diary of Martha Ballard, an 18thcentury midwife who investigates a shocking murder that unhinges the small town of Hallowell, Maine, author Ariel Lawhon tells a gripping story of Martha’s investigation of a murder and a rape, and her quest for justice for the victims in a time where women had little standing and when forensic science didn’t exist. Through Ariel’s retelling, we also get a rare glimpse of women’s lives during the post- Revolutionary period in a small New England town. It’s a historical mystery based on a true story that you will not be able to put down.

Though invited, Ariel has not confirmed her attendance at our meeting this month, so let’s be prepared to have a robust discussion on this story without the author.

Please mark your calendars on Thursday, April 25 at 7:00 pm EDT to join me in a lively discussion on The Frozen River.

Buy the Book


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.

hen a man accused of rape turns up dead, an Early American town seeks justice amid rumors and controversy.

Lawhon’s fifth work of historical fiction is inspired by the true story and diaries of midwife Martha Ballard of Hallowell, Maine, a character she brings to life brilliantly here. As Martha tells her patient in an opening chapter set in 1789, “You need not fear….In all my years attending women in childbirth, I have never lost a mother.”

The Frozen River - Ariel Lawhon

Book Club Questions


  1. What did 1. you think of Martha?
  2. What did you think of the way Martha and Ephraim’s past is revealed in the
    interstitial chapters?


  1. How did life in Hallowell in 1789 surprise you?
  2. Much of the novel’s action focuses on the legal process surrounding Rebecca Forster’s assault and Martha’s testimony. Were you surprised at the way the 18th century judicial process unfolded? Do you think Rebecca’s story would have been
    received differently in a contemporary courtroom?
  3. Did you read the author’s note? If so, did it change your evaluation of Martha’s life and the story of the “year of the long winter?”


  1. Did it work for you? What would you have changed?
  2. What do you think is the author’s message to readers of  The Frozen River?
  3. What did you take away from the book?
  4. Are you left with any questions?


  1. Did you notice any symbolism?
  2. What foreshadowing did you notice? 


  1. Use one adjective to describe the writing itself.
  2. What would you change if you could rewrite The Frozen River?


  1. What did you love most about the book?
  2. Did the book change any views/opinions that you have?

The Frozen River - Ariel Lawhon