These Healing Hills

Written by Ann H. Gabhart
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

At the end of WWII, when Francine Howard discovers the man she thought she was going to marry is bringing home his English fiancée, she literally runs for the hills—the hills of Kentucky. And Kentucky is quite a change from her home in Cincinnati, one both frightening and exciting.

Fran is coming to the Appalachian Mountains to attend the Frontier Nursing Service and learn to become a midwife. Medical attention is hard to come by for hardscrabble mountain women, and Fran wants to put her nurse’s training to good use, but she is amazed at the poverty she finds. However, there’s more to the area than mere poverty. She also finds a resilient spirit among the people, despite their circumstances. She is slowly seduced by the mountain beauty and the culture. Even the imaginative use of language delights her.

She is also pleased when she meets returning soldier Ben Locke. Well, maybe she’s not happy at first. But slowly, as Fran grows to appreciate the simple pleasures of life in the mountains, she also begins to think about her life in new ways. A life that might include Ben.

Well-researched and vivid in its love for the Appalachian Mountains, this inspirational novel expresses the hope evidenced after WWII. While inspirational novels can be heavy-handed in their message, this one is less so than many. At the beginning of the story, Bible quotes from Fran’s grandmother tend to overpower the action; however, as time progresses, these intrusions happen with less frequency and the reader is more prepared for the grandmother’s voice in Fran’s ear.